A slender first novel revisits that well-trod territory of troubled mother-daughter relationships--and tries to revitalize it with a multicultural spin. When almost-30 Amanda, still a temp, meets Senegalese Adam selling books on a Manhattan sidewalk, she decides to get to know ``this interesting and different person [because] she hated most of the people she met in New York anyway.'' And so Amanda pursues Adam with self-absorbed energy right into a one-stand--which of course makes her pregnant. Still, though she has no money, doesn't get on with her own mother, and Adam's disappeared, she's not worried: Now she can leave the hateful city and make a new life in Maine, a place she loves. There, her daughter, Caroline--born in the frigid and isolated house Amanda rents--grows up angry and unhappy because Amanda, who works at dead-end jobs and has affairs with local married men, doesn't understand her. School, where Caroline is tormented for being and looking different, is no better; and though college is a slight improvement, it's still in cold Maine. Deciding that ``somewhere there had to be more,'' Caroline joins the Peace Corps and heads to West Africa to find Adam. Once there, however, she's side-tracked by mandatory classes, work, and a lingering reluctance to take the final step--until a chance encounter takes her to her father's village. She introduces herself, but Adam is not exactly welcoming. ``Children are always being born,'' he tells her. ``It's the way of the world.'' There's no point in blaming Amanda or Adam, Caroline now realizes: ``I can do anything, it's really up to me.'' An exotic African locale and some graceful writing can't save a story that relies so heavily on improbabilities, coincidences, and stereotypes.