In subject matter, this first novel may approach the banal--but Faessler's quiet accumulation of purpose and naturalness of approach pull it back again and again and give it shine. Sophie Glicksman, an 18-year-old Jewish girl living in Toronto (in what seems like the Forties), meets Billy James, the blond swimming coach at the YMHA where she works as a secretary. ""Ben Ruskin had talked Darwinism to her, Avrom Bochner talked Zionism, and Ronnie, Marxism. Billy James talked love."" So she secretly marries this Gentile and is soon pregnant by him. Billy, always accommodating, agreeably if immunely converts to Judaism, even is circumcised, to please Sophie's father; and to save money, the Jameses move in with the Glicksmans, into a small and not-very-well-kept house. (Mrs. Glicksman, really Sophie's stepmother, is illiterate, strictly Yiddish-speaking, long-suffering but very good of heart; Faessler's descriptions of how she cooks and cleans are terrifically touching.) Billy and Sophie quickly came to find each other's family incomprehensible: the politeness that rules at Billy's family table, the impoliteness at Sophie's; excessive privacy vs. the Jewish ""from lung to tongue."" But, despite periodic misadventures at the hands of landlords during times when Billy and Sophie decide to strike out on their own, the marriage works: Billy even buys half a share of the house with his father-in-law. And then Sophie has an affair, with an artist. Four years later another, with a musician. Why? She doesn't even quite know herself, unless it's a certain ""lung to tongue"" frankness of spirit which the earnest Billy doesn't encourage. In any case, it causes devastation; and Faessler, having brought us so closely into the hearts and feelings of both Sophie and Billy, makes us attend it with nearly the sorrow of family. A lovely book, a splendid debut.