This is a low-keyed, modest first novel about Ellie Perlin. Mr. Horowitz writes it as a kind of prose individualization. His short poem, Home Is Where You Start From prefaces the work. Ellie, born at the turn of the century--the eldest daughter of a first-generation, Orthodox Jewish family, living in New York--marries Morris, an obtuse, brutish hardworking milkman. He was originally the suitor of her younger sister, Mollie. But Papa insisted, ""The oldest daughter must marry first,"" and somehow or other Morris and Ellie get together. From their first night on they are continually fighting. They go on nonetheless. Children are born. Parents die. Brother Harry, who married a schiksa, turns up at affairs. Morris is promoted. They move. A complicated family squabble involves the ownership and management of a small resort hotel in the Catskills. There are discussions of ""Jewishness"" and what it means. To Ellie, it is ""a past which she needed, for nourishment, like someone needs to smoke."" And so it goes for years and pages, with Ellie's intense, misunderstood, indeed undefined needs gnawing at her, when she has time to admit them. But unfortunately, Ellie becomes a compelling figure only in her death, from cancer. She withers away inexorably, in final and irrevocable separation from the family who only now wants to know her. About the brutal facts of death and dying, Horowitz writes brilliantly. But it is too late. The anguished lady on the bed has been a generality throughout, as distant to the reader as she was to her family. What worked in poetry, does not work in prose. And Ellie Perlin is just another cancer victim.