Vanderbilt's memoirs (Once Upon a Time; Black Knight, White Knight) artfully laid bare the byzantine twists of her tortured early years and long march toward inner strength. But her first novel--a group portrait of a handful of middle-aged women--packs much less punch. Everyone here narrates her own story. There's Jessica Wetherbee, a big-shot gallery-owner seething over the fact that her lover, TV journalist Mac Hollis, won't leave his wife. Billie Hollis hardly cares that she and Mac have given up sex: she's parlayed his social connections into a thriving artists' agency. And actress Jane Esmond and painter Garnet Blackburn share Grafton, a gimlet-swilling boyfriend with a penchant for rough sex. And finally there's the absent Dolores, Jessica's mum, a fabled beauty who earlier abandoned her young daughter and now--unknown to all--pens diaries in a Soviet mental institution. Plot, such as it is, skitters off various interconnections (Jess had some romantic rough-and-tumble with Grafton years back; Garnet resembles Dolores; Billie plans to make Grafton a star) and ultimately settles in on Jess. When her only daughter is killed in an accident, she hovers on the verge of breakdown until Mac comes through for her (or have her needs changed?). Then comes the call from the FBI: Jess's long-lost mother Dolores has been found. The multi-voice contrivance works: each narrator has a sustained tone and sensibility. But what to make of their woes? The men they care about come across as singularly unappealing, and--with the exception of gritty Billie--the women seem locked into a collective poise that overshadows their supposed struggles. Vanderbilt's prose is supple and her eye for detail keen, but the many strands of her story fail to mesh. Lots of ostensible drama, then, but little emotional resonance.