A first novel about thirtysomething Katherine, single parent and late bloomer, that breathlessly pushes all the right contemporary buttons--only to reach an uplifting, old-fashioned conclusion. Convent-educated in Louisiana, Katherine had wanted to be a poet so badly that she dropped out of college freshman year and returned to work in her beloved New Orleans. Katherine, a daddy's girl who grew up in a small town along the Mississippi, has been shaped by her Catholic education, especially in her attitude toward sex--which means that when she meets handsome English prof Eric, and they soon make love, marriage is obligatory. A daughter is born shortly thereafter, followed by a son, and soon Katherine-- overwhelmed by motherhood--finds herself drinking more and reading less. A move to North Carolina strains an already rocky marriage; and though there's a third baby, Eric's continued infidelities are too much. Katherine leaves, bravely makes a home for herself and the kids, and starts writing for the local paper. But the children are a problem, though she loves them intensely, and so is sex, for there's still all that lingering Catholic guilt. And despite a few affairs, including one with married Ian (who prefers her without her kids), Katherine's love life remains unsatisfactory. Then, just as her career begins to take off, her father's death and a near- fatal accident involving the youngest child precipitate the inevitable crisis. Tired of being simultaneously mom, lover, and career woman, Katherine hands the kids over to Eric and flees to California with Ian--but in an obligatory epiphany realizes that she has ``never truly dug in for a fight.'' Eventually, she'll head home to reclaim the children and save Louisiana from developers and pollution. Typical of the genre in which every mistake is forgiven if an allegedly strong, talented, and sexy woman finally grows up.