After the darkly imaginative intensities of Property Of and The Drowning Season--a tender, happy-ending tale about love and the ways a person can spring the traps set by habit and history. Again Hoffman's setting is Long Island, where stands, by the now-polluted ocean, both a nuclear plant (under construction at Angel Landing) and Aunt Minnie Lansky's boarding house with only one boarder (he's building a raft in the basement and comes out only at night). But there's a non-paying guest on the premises too--Minnie's niece Natalie, a social worker who wants to be in the neighborhood because of her infatuation with Carter Sugarland, leader of the no-nukes group that's protesting the nuclear plant. Then, however, a few days after Minnie and Natalie see a sky-spectacular explosion over at the plant, young welder Michael Finn walks into Natalie's counseling-center office: he confesses that he caused the explosion (by carefully mis-fitting a valve), and he fills in the background that led to this thoroughly un-political protest--the failure of his grandfather and father to determine their own destinies, his year in jail (caused by his father's bewildered brutality), his life of dead ends and defeat. Finn is indeed tried for the crime; he's defended by an expensive lawyer (provided by Carter, who's delighted with a ready-made anti-nuke hero) and acquitted by a happy accident. But before the turbulence finally dies away, Natalie comes to love both Finn (reconciled with his father now that his past has at last ""unwound inside him"") and Aunt Minnie, a tough immigrant survivor who's been busy bullying local politicians and springing seniors from a nursing home. True, much of this book is made of fictional staples: a pushy old lady doing good by raising hell, a father-and-son reconciliation, a crusader who can't relate to people, a girl-gets-boy fadeout. But Hoffman hears multi-tonal echoes around all these commonplaces, and the result is another unusual, impressive Hoffman novel--a beguiling blend of delicate satire, compassionate commentary, and deceptively simple, touching romance.