In all her best work, Roiphe (The Pursuit of Happiness, 1991, etc.) has mined the depth of human love and exposed its secret lode of sorrow. Here, she does it again in a gently funny, ultimately serious, heartfelt story about the risks of middle-age love. Leah Rose meets Ollie Marcus when she plunges into the surf on a fall afternoon to help him rescue his retarded adult sister, Sally--a portentous action, as it turns out. Leah, in her early 40s, is a biologist on sabbatical from her lab, living in the beach house she inherited from her parents. Ollie, about the same age, is a high-school English teacher who lives in the house where he grew up and takes care of his sister. Sally is saved that fall day--and some small spark is ignited between Leah and Ollie. It smolders quietly for a while--these two have been alone for a long time and they're used to it. So when things finally do flame, they're frightened. Life is so bright, it makes them wary. Ollie backs off. Leah voices her concerns, by telephone, to her best friend, Myrna. And even though Myrna seems tiresome and monomaniacal in the exchanges we hear--we learn more than we ever wanted to know about how her bathroom smells--she does come up with some pointed advice: ``Be careful,'' she cautions Leah. ``There's a reason he's still available.'' There is. But, of course, there are reasons Leah is still available too. What they both have to figure out is where fear ends and trust begins. Finding that spot takes far more courage than jumping into the icy sea on a fall day--and, ultimately, it's worth every shiver. A coming-of-age in middle-age. Roiphe shows us a new facet of first love here--slightly worn, but its shine is deep.