A first novel from poet Salazar turns a single mother's bumpy road toward independence into a hapless clichÇ. In carefully crafted chapters that move back and forth between childhood and the present, the author tells the story of Cassie Quinlan and her four-year-old daughter, Hope, as they try to find an anchor after Cassie walks out on her musician husband, Ned. Cassie's own father died in WW II, and, not sure if mother Eileen had actually married him, she'd never asked too many questions because ``she was afraid she might not like the answers.'' Childhood had been a succession of moves from Chicago to California as Eileen sometimes married, sometimes not, men whom she hoped would be fathers for Cassie. But Eileen, like her daughter, is with one exception a lousy picker, and the two are frequently rescued by good friend Juanita. Now, without a job and a man, Cassie lands up in Fresno, with her only expectations ``another cocktailing job...another round of nothing'' and ``an emptiness she would like to fill. But she couldn't imagine what to fill it with, except perhaps a man.'' Before she has a really stagy epiphany while flying back to Juanita in her hometown of Chevyville, though, she'll recall her rootless life with Eileen; her reliance on Juanita, who helps when she runs into trouble after Eileen dies; her failed marriage; and her current problems finding work and child care. As the plane ``blasts into the violent eye of the storm that was the future,'' Cassie understands that Hope doesn't need a father, that she can be enough for her. Families don't have to look like society's idealized version: it's the content, not the form, that counts. Another contrived, defining-moment novel that tries to celebrate pluck, love, and resilience with female characters who are as phony and feckless as their men.