In this wry, sensitive novel, Lisa painfully learns that her mother is too fragile to lean on, though not to love. Jim Allen is dead, leaving nothing but debts. His wife, Nancy, becomes more and more withdrawn; then she disappears. As the days pass, her daughters, Lisa and Robyn, struggle to maintain the fiction that she'll be back soon; meanwhile, they move to Aunt Renee's boisterous household. Though their personalities could hardly be more different, Lisa and her younger cousin, Sam, gradually become friends. Sam, shy with girls but otherwise gregarious and loyal, is willing to take Lisa's anger and resentment and to provide companionship--in exchange for a little instruction in kissing. When Nancy eventually gets in touch, she's still too deeply depressed to pick up her old life; but thanks to Sam, Renee, and time, Lisa is now capable of accepting her mother's weakness. Vigorous dialogue and a quick, deft style lighten this rather unhappy story; wisely, Mazer lets events unfold without telling readers what to think or feel. Sympathetic, well told, and--untimately--optimistic.