A disappointing follow-up to The Congressman's Daughter (1986): the patchy, convoluted story of two small-town products of unhappy families who ultimately become lovers--and destroy each other. Marie Boule eventually leaves Baxter, Pa., to get away from her mother's belief in "luck or the benign progression of life" and from her father's pathetic money-making schemes. After an affair with a French-Canadian hairdresser and the affluent Robert Chesterfield, she goes to California. Meanwhile, Ben Lunn sees his mother leave his father for Los Angeles, where (it's reported) she eventually swims for a living--in a fish tank in a nudie bar. Ben believes in the barometer ("in the jerky rise and fall of the needle there was something worth knowing and even useful enough to keep him from getting hurt"); after waiting fruitlessly in Baxter for his girl--Marie--to return, he goes off to Berkeley, eventually gets a Ph.D. in meteorology, and marries Faith Wheeler. Inevitably, of course, he meets Marie, who has been living as Christine Taylor--sometimes a kept woman, sometimes a prostitute. As lovers, she and Ben are forces of nature. When Marie demands that Ben leave his wife, threatening him with a pistol, Ben kills her with a bottle of booze, climaxing a booklength dissertation on love: characters believe in it, and then don't, or don't, and then do. Technically fluent and vivid, but the whole thing is curiously anecdotal and distant--a series of portraits about people we are never sufficiently made to care for, so that mood and attitude too often overwhelm significance.