What begins as a sharp, clever debut comedy veers bewilderingly (and disappointingly) toward the surreal. Howie's 30-year-old (unnamed) heroine has been married for six months, but already it's clear the marriage isn't succeeding. She and her husband, Doug, have stopped having sex and can work through the tension between themselves only by buying antique furniture and refinishing it. By now their Brooklyn apartment is crammed full of antiques, Doug is growing ever more taciturn, and his wife is having frequent nightmares. Her father commiserates but isn't much help. Neither are her friends. Then a ruptured muscle in the woman's thigh begins to cause serious pain, and her doctor can offer no solution. Abruptly, she gets divorced and drives north to a cabin in the woods, determined to remain alone until she's figured out why she seems constitutionally unable to love. In the cabin, though, insight fails to appear. She watches the snow fall, growing increasingly depressed until she notices that her cat, Vinny, is talking to her. Vinny, an introspective, intellectual soul who was once Napoleon and claims to be evolving upwards, through multiple incarnations, toward an ever-simpler life form, tries to help his mistress analyze her troubles--even as the snow continues falling, the pain in the leg increases, and it becomes clear that this woman will have to venture into the wilderness in search of more firewood. Her wilderness adventure yields an encounter with a polar bear personifying the woman's rage: Only by ripping the muscle out of her leg (and letting go of past resentments) can she tame the bear. Back at the cabin, a beautiful visitor named Nellie reminds the woman of someone she knows-- someone who, it turns out, is the narrator herself, as others see her. All our heroine has to do, it seems, is learn to love all the selves Nellie has revealed to her, and love for other people will become possible at last. A highly unusual--and irritatingly strange--debut.