An unpretentious first novel, set mostly in northern Vermont, that says many wise and witty things about love and life. Odessa, 30-ish and Jewish, who fled to Waspish Vermont to escape her Long Island family, is determined to avoid commitment, family, and trouble. Now, ``as the only Jew in the Historical Society's membership--riveting stuff for someone who grew up in a ranch house''--Odessa works at Auntie's Antiques, where Auntie Byron (``high priest of the carriage trade'') is teaching her the business. Things are slow, though, especially in winter, and Odessa has lots of time on her hands. An affair with chintzy, married Wasp Malcolm is sputtering to an end, and she spends her days researching the village's legendary murderer, Rebecca Peake, who killed her husband and stepchildren. Then a chance encounter with ten-year-old Megan selling mushrooms irrevocably changes Odessa's life. Megan is living with stepmother Sam, while Sam contests her custody in the on-going divorce proceedings with Gil Velasquez, a handsome descendant of the Conquistadors. Well-born, wealthy Sam, whose life was filled with everything but her parents' love, has reacted by embracing every radical political group that opens its arms to her--a reaction that has been particularly hard on Megan, who wears thrift-shop clothes, is exposed to terrifying stories about battered women and imminent nuclear war, and endures a harsh diet and regimen. Over a year, Odessa, who fears her own mother would have rather been an artist than have a child, reluctantly draws closer to Megan, her splendid dog, and her father, Gil. Insights are earned, love triumphs--and Odessa can finally open her heart to young Megan. Lots of gentle skewering of contemporary Vermont--where ``ex- flatlanders,'' recently discovering ``that family was the latest rage, were having one big Ralph Lauren `at home' ''--as well as much unmawkish warm and fuzzy stuff. A writer to watch.