The tale of a twisted saint, a woman so possessed by philosophy and so desperate to experience ``the infinite possibilities in all things'' that she enters a metaphysical wonderland she can't escape--a finely wrought cautionary fable about trying to satisfy the yearning of the soul by intellect alone. Eve wakes up in an apartment in downtown Manhattan, hallucinating that she is wearing a bloody, feathery shawl made of mashed sparrows. This episode of madness is soon replaced with a dream vision about being trapped inside a descending spiral. Eventually, Eve's hard-working waitress-sister returns to the apartment and rouses Eve for a lunch with their father, an exacting theologian who unnerves her. We also learn that Eve, while in high school, watched her gym-teacher mother fall to her death. This loss left almost no mark, however, compared with the constant visceral memories she has of the suicide of her childhood friend Karen. While her sister supports her, Eve struggles to finish her dissertation on ``The Infinite Possibilities in All Things,'' an endless elaboration of a theory Eve calls ``The Pearl String.'' The ``First Pearl,'' according to Eve, is the world of everyday finite reality. Most people never suspect that there are levels of reality beyond this dreary pearl, but Eve knows from experience that ``once you get out of that First Pearl, there is a compelling force moving you along from one pearl to the next....'' Overwhelmed by her own visions and philosophy, she travels to Assisi, where she seeks a strange absolution by bedding strangers in the fields around the monastery of St. Francis. Back in New York, however, she is soon consumed by her ``Pearl String,'' and it is a downward spiraling vortex that will not let her up for air. Despite some workshop arty bits, a first novel that glimmers with wit and heart.