Step aside, all you writers running on about the emptiness of small-town life. In this sprightly debut novel, Stevens portrays a suburban family with dignity, and it works as more than just a novelty. When her husband, Gordie, leaves her for another woman, Augusta Iris has a nervous breakdown in the supermarket parking lot, after which she takes to her bed and barely speaks to her younger son, Henry, who has just failed to graduate from high school and is mowing lawns for the summer for someone who deals marijuana on occasion. Frightened, Henry phones his older brother, Matthew, who comes home to Connecticut from Boston, where he is close to earning his Ph.D. in chemistry. Matthew is a loner who turns out to be inept at talking to his mother and mostly holes up in his boyhood room. Then Henry falls in love with Bette Mack, a spirited young woman who is bound to set his mother straight. After a disagreement with her own mother, she moves in with the Iris family and gets closer and closer to Augusta. This all sounds rather grim and clinical on paper, but Stevens has a light touch with domestic drama reminiscent of Laurie Colwin's. In sections that alternate between the third person and Augusta's voice, Bette encourages Augusta to smoke cigarettes and leaves newspapers in her room with horrible stories exposed (``car accidents, lost children, murders''), which Augusta eventually recognizes as ``the first company I'd had since Gordie left.'' Bette also works on drawing out Matthew (the two share an interest in vegetarianism) and goes a little too far with that project while Henry is obsessively working on a sculpture out in his father's old studio. Throughout, Stevens offers great insights in simple, direct language. This is not flawless work--Bette's own personality is never quite clear enough, and the ending is strikingly neat--but it is an impressive and delightful debut.