Hannah Jackson, 42, has cancer, eminently operable cancer, but Hannah has news for dentist husband Henry, last-resort confidante Edith, and her pompous Harley St. doctor--she'll take her estimated two years and leave it at that. ""It's the first autonomous decision of my life,"" she says, remembering her bossy, puritanical mother and the blahs of her too-early, too-endless marriage: ""The boys grew. Henry suffered. Hannah suffered."" The death sentence becomes an emancipation proclamation, and Hannah says ""fuck"" at a coffee-morning, unleashes some of her rage and malice on Henry (""Would you like me to grovel now or later?""), discovers the ""enjoyableness of work,"" sees her first girlie magazines--and has an affair. Handsome David, though living in sin with Christine, is so loving that Hannah briefly reconsiders her decision (""She's quite young. . . there could be years and years""), then switches back to romantic death-wish (""David will be sad. . . her memory will be perfect""). But widening experience brings hurt, betrayal, and a return to the original plan--with only the rationale altered: ""honorable surrender."" In this first novel, Martin invests a slew of banal motifs--raised consciousness, ""our nice society,"" repressed sensuality--with enough edge, style, and distance to soften the deja vu, even if she's not distant enough from Hannah (nor sufficiently close) to make sense of her foolish-noble-sick resolution. ""Isn't it a bit extreme to die?"" So Edith says, so you'll say, but you'll like Hannah, and you'll probably succumb, albeit a bit impatiently, to the built-in suspense of her changes of mind.