An intelligent and uncommonly sensitive first novel describing a young woman’s slow and painful coming of age. When Charlee’s mother ran off with another man and abandoned her to the care of her father, she was still a mere girl. Her father was a genial, easygoing man who was happiest in a bar, exchanging the time of day with other tipplers as feckless as himself. Still, unlike most drunks, he was not entirely self-centered and irresponsible: Much of his life revolved around Charlee, or seemed to. “He never cared about literal things, such as keeping up a house, buckling under at a job, saving for the future. He believed that every day was to be lived for itself. He had the condemned man’s sense of freedom.” And freedom is very important to the young. Charlee grows up as her father’s daughter, downing Tom Collinses in her early teens and then, as a grown woman, never really settling down. Living in a small New England town on the coast, she quits her job and falls in love with inappropriate men. David, the painter, picks her up on the beach; Peter, the poet’s son, meets her in a bar. Peter is building a house, and he drinks. “It is an awful thing to fall in love with a man who drinks . . . the courtship is askew,” says Charlee, and she ought to know. The pattern of her relations with drunken men was set long ago, but now the circumstances have changed and she has to find a way of changing herself. Like all of life’s challenges, this one requires an effort of will, but it also demands a new reading of her own past, one that she’s reluctant to allow. But circumstances are forcing a new view on her. A quiet and unassuming debut all the more moving for its modesty.