Colman traces in painstaking, sometimes painful detail the moments of a mother and daughter thrown together by the death of their husband/father. Hank Davis' sudden death the summer his daughter, Dallas, graduates from high school forces Dallas to skip hex first year at Dartmouth and become sole emotional support for her mother, Ellen, who at 37 is still childishly dependent. Their hometown of Millstone is appropriately named, Ellen finds, as the succeeding months show her how hard it is for a widow to fit into the coupled suburban life. Ellen chains herself to Dallas and Dallas' young friends. ""The fact that she realizes what she's doing almost makes it worse,"" Dallas complains. ""She doesn't seem to have any control."" Dallas' only relief is her involvement with Victor Waters. But Victor's cheerful, steady maturity is hard to believe, and the author's portrayal of their relationship--are they really serious? comforting each other? or fooling themselves?--never jells. Towards the end Colman's careful regulation of the characters slips; Ellen's soapy clutching never ceases, and it's a relief when her own neurotic mother arrives to set an example of foolish behavior and bring about a reconciliation.