A spirited black woman raises five kids single-handedly in this heartfelt but predictable first novel. Mildred Peacock finally gets the strength to dump her boozing, womanizing husband Crook, but where does that leave her? It's 1964, she has five young children, and lives in the black ghetto of the small Michigan town of Point Haven. But Mildred is nothing if not resourceful--she works as a cleaning woman, a helper in a nursing home, on the assembly line, even, briefly, as a prostitute. She also marries twice more (unsuccessfully) and begins to drink heavily and take ""nerve pills."" Meanwhile, her eldest and most promising daughter, Freda, moves to L.A., gets a degree, and starts making something of herself; soon the entire family, including Mildred, follows. McMillan makes short, unsatisfying stabs at following the progress of all the Peacocks, but what she's really interested in is charting Mildred and Freda's twin descents into alcoholism. Freda is now in New York, going on binges for days and trying to make it as a free-lance writer; Mildred finally drags herself back to Point Haven and starts drinking at nine in the morning. Suddenly, they both wise up, put the cork in, but their turnabout is unconvincing stuff--as is most of the textbook drunkenness leading up to it. But McMillan is on-target, funny and moving, when she describes Mildred fight-flag for survival, forcing her family to accept her as she is while watching out for them with the ferocity of a mother lion. In all, then, an uneven but promising debut.