Digging Out, an almost very good first novel, is endowed with intelligence, feeling and an attentive eye for the socially revealing, domestic artifact. Part of it, in alternating insects (""primary sources""), is spent by Laura Smith at the bedside of her mother, Rose--Laura living ""on the literal verge of her mother's death."" She has witnessed her mother's shattering decomposition from a mole in the leg to a tumor in the brain; she identifies, repudiates, recoils. In so doing she also acknowledges the continuity of generations but achieves some sort of liberation, from her, from the claustral Jewish experience of family--of mothers and daughters, mothers and sons (boys ""plump with mother's love and father's money"") while wives and husbands are more frequently attached incommunicado. The other half of the novel (the ""secondary sources"") tells about the other members of the Smith-Tumarkin-Loeb constellation (Laura's aunts, cousins, etc.) from old Jacob who came over in the steerage to charmingly easy Barbara and Thomas--""abstract art...Oriental rugs...mutual funds."" Digging Out then deals with transitions, past and present, collective and individual, and in the presence of death, asserts a strong sense of life. As a novel it is technically fragmentary; but as a writer Anne Richardson has an awareness of the acculturation of the Jew, breaking through, breaking away, letting go; women will read it with a moved recognition and responsiveness.