Anxiety takes center stage in Rochlin's entertaining second novel (after Frobisch's Angel, 1987)--a rather trendy tale of a family on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Juanita's the type of mother who warns her children to check for scorpions before they put on their sneakers, reminisces about polio before a summer afternoon's swim, and predicts tornadoes before every thunderstorm. Her cautionary tales have little affected her own matter-of-fact outlook on life, but they've made nervous wrecks of the generation she has spawned. Franklin is a confirmed agoraphobe; Linda, who eloped with a high-school boyfriend and had his child, has returned home after having been abandoned; and runty son Paulie is already scared of his own shadow. The entire clan huddles, trembling, in Juanita's Washington, D.C., house--depending for the most part on Linda's gritty determination for their survival while she harangues Franklin to do something constructive with his life, Paulie to stand up for himself, and Juanita to stop scaring the living daylights out of everyone. Change occurs--thanks to a catastrophe even Juanita hasn't predicted: the family matriarch suffers a heart attack. Her prolonged stay in the hospital (as well as the inevitable intimations of mortality that follow) forces Linda to examine her life and brings ghostly Franklin out of the house at last. The wisecracking tone, the nostalgia-gilded memories of an American childhood, and the pervasive atmosphere of inconclusiveness all feel a bit shopworn these days, but Rochlin's offbeat sense of humor triumphs.