Two years of romance by correspondence--between 47-year-old, staid matron Margaret in New York and 30-year-old sociology professor Brian in California. It all starts with Margaret's polite fan letter to Brian about his article on subculture religions; then it ripens steadily into curiosity and intense affection as the two exchange confessionals, commentary on contemporary outrages (the slashing of redwoods; graffiti on monuments), and anxious advice about personal problems. Margaret, strictly Boston Brahmin-bred, is married to stolid lawyer Arthur, who has computed exactly how many haircuts he will have for the rest of his life, and is mother to Gary--who drops out of Columbia and joins a seamy religious cult. With Brian's help, Margaret works through her worries, frustrations, and angers, while Brian, father of two, must confront the wacky and then dangerous proclivities of his wife Kay, who's into the counterculture by way of drugs and cults. And eventually the pen pals find themselves passionately in love: Margaret will take on a responsible job and leave Arthur; Brian will divorce Kay; and after two years of doubts and missed connections, the long-distance lovers at last have one great night of love. They are about to unite forever, until Margaret, determined to live to the hilt although she knows she has terminal cancer, dies four days after her letter to Brian announcing the severing of her ""puppet strings"" with the ""golden scissors of our love."" A cop-out ending (see also television's Queen of the Stardust Ballroom and a hundred others)--but a decent enough serving of contemporary sentimentality.