Veteran novelist Allen (Leftover Dreams, 1992, etc.) now offers an ultimately feel-good tale about the successful rehabilitation of a severely battered woman who, with her child, is aided by three generations of women. Bobby knows she must escape vicious husband Joe before he kills their six-year-old daughter, Penny. With her bruised and swollen face, she drives frantically from their upstate New York home to a well-to-do Connecticut enclave--and providentially is taken on as a nurse/companion to elderly stroke victim Alma. (Alma is intrigued by bright Penny, but the child's chatter may be wearying to the reader--and Bobby, who regularly uses ``real'' as an adverb but who admits to reading all of Dickens, shifts in and out of focus.) Both Alma and her novelist daughter Eva have doubts about the two, but Bobby is remarkably able, and it's soon obvious that both Bobby and Penny are essential to Alma's health and spirits. Eva, meanwhile, in disturbing reveries (all characters tip the cards of personal histories at one point) comes to grips with traumatic memories of the death of a dear friend, by her husband, and with internal battles concerning the claims of art vs. moola for commercial fiction. Eva tends to be curt with Bobby, but then her college-age daughter, Melissa, arrives for Christmas, and before long all the women are intensely important to one another. And there are good men--good, good men--around. Just when the happy household seems solidified, however, in comes Joe--armed, dangerous, and lunatic.... A cautionary tale, but with a cheerful domestic overcast as a victim is given back her life, and there's plenty of information concerning the battered-wife syndrome. Topical and, oddly, commercially comfy.