Living in a Melbourne commune, 33-year-old Nora has a six-year-old daughter and a truly unfortunate lover, 23-year-old Javo: he loves Nora, you see, but he loves heroin better. An itinerant movie-actor, Javo is here and there, off to Bangkok to score some really pure stuff or sick in the hospital with septicemia. ""Smack habit, love habit,"" Nora thinks--""what's the difference. They can both kill you."" And, through the daily round of coke-snorting, IUD fittings, throwing the Ching, rock band rehearsals, and trips to the beach, an awful lot of jealousy gets brewed up. . . despite the fact that Nora herself seems to matter-of-factly sleep with about any man who comes within ten feet of her. First-novelist Garner works hard at conveying the feel of communal-love-lost, but all that comes across here is gutter and flicker, with both central characters pale and unlikable. An urgent but bleachy, curiously inexpressive book, then--and though an Australian commune may be something of a novelty, US readers have encountered this depressing milieu often (and in far better focus) before.