An honest (if programmatic) case study--half love story, half inspirational--of a woman's descent into manic-depression and her family's attempt to cope with her illness. McLaughlin alternates point-of-view between Margo (a mother, wife and artist living in Berkeley who feels that ``something within me had slipped down out of place''), husband Terry (an art historian who teaches and who writes for a magazine of art criticism), children Mikey and Laura, sitter Nancy, and Margo's sister Liz. Margo's sickness blankets them all; she ``can't seem to get myself organized'' and sees an analyst. But therapy doesn't work, medication doesn't work, and finally Margo--institutionalized and delusional--learns that her own mother committed suicide. That insight provides the key to her eventual ascent into sanity and domestic equilibrium. Meanwhile, the pattern of escalation and eventual (though tentative) cure is fleshed out with a good deal of ordinary detail: Margo trying to keep it together long enough to paint portraits; Terry discovering that his charismatic magazine publisher is a plagiarist; sister-in-law Liz having an affair with the same publisher; Margo's father, a hearty, superficial man, occasionally making an appearance and serving as the deus ex machina at the end with the revelation about his wife's death; Terry getting a shot at a tenure-track position; and Margo, returning home after her descent, getting a new dog to replace the one killed in an accident. As for the writing, it's mostly workmanlike but can be very sloppy: ``...a question that had been burning inside me spurted from my mouth.'' Despite its literary flourishes, this one's more valuable as case history than as fiction.