From King (The Book of Reuben, 1994, etc), a departure from her familiar fictional environs (the small town of Nodd's Ridge), but a work sharing with her earlier books a decidedly unquaint view of domestic life in Maine. Kristin Mellors (a.k.a. ""Kissy Melons,"" for an obvious physical attribute) starts out the novel by almost killing two fellow students at Sowerwine College. Her car doesn't hit them, but soon after a vehicle driven by a drunk premed student does. One girl dies, the other falls into a coma. Kissy's relationship with the girl in a coma, Ruth Prashker, will haunt her for the rest of the story, as will her involvement with the drunk driver. An aspiring photographer, Kissy is a member of the college's black-clad artsy set, so it's a surprise when she takes up with the star of the school hockey team, Junior Clootie. But if sex is any indication (and it is the principal indication of practically everything here), the two are made for each other. Clootie is bound for the pros, but Kissy's future is less clear. Will she establish her independence from her past, or will the survivors of the accident she witnessed continue to dog her existence? Clootie truly loves her, but he's basically an amiable screw-up. Some ill-advised whoring lands both him and Kissy with the clap and sets a pattern: Clootie will always be trouble, and Kissy will always have trouble staying away. A bizarre tryst with the drunk driver/premed student leaves Kissy pregnant, and she marries Clootie, giving birth to a baby girl. Their marriage goes almost immediately to pieces, though, thanks largely to Clootie's indiscretions and nomadic lifestyle. The author's decision to tack on a conventional thriller ending is questionable, but it scarcely dilutes the impact of this rough-and-tumble, exceedingly realistic, and metaphorically resonant lurch through damaged lives. A novel of great insight and empathy, filled with believable, troubled, complex characters.