Fourteen years and three novels after Hearts, Wolitzer picks up precisely where she left off: widowed Linda Reismann, 27, is pulling into Los Angeles in her Mustang; Robin, her bratty adolescent stepdaughter, is asleep on the back seat. Skillfully interweaving a plot recap for those who missed the earlier volume, the author hurtles her characters through time into 1992. Rodney King and Reginald Denny are beaten, stores are destroyed by the riots, Clinton hits the campaign trail. The fact that Linda remains 27 and Robin 13 may startle some readers of the 1980 novel, but both characters are so genuine here that it scarcely matters. Wolitzer (who has also written several YA novels) captures the teenager brilliantly. Walking into a gourmet take-out shop for a snack, Robin finds only vegetable chips: ""They tasted a lot like regular potato chips, and the seltzer wasn't bad either. But what a rip-off."" Passages such as this also indicate the major conflict that fuels the novel: the discrepancies between wealth and poverty, enchantment and delusion, for which LA's tinsel-town atmosphere provides the perfect setting. Deftly, quietly, characters milk each other emotionally and physically, yet amid it all some desperately and at times foolishly cling to love. Despite an onslaught of difficulties -- everything from a car crash and a robbery/murder to a carefully engineered custody threat -- Wolitzer guides readers at a slow, even pace, always allowing time for poetic description. Little asides that in some novels interfere with the pace here blend in seamlessly, for example, Linda's memory of a high school friend. Actions and reactions get sentimental at times, and a major plot development is tied up too easily, but the majority of readers will be too caught up in the characters' day-today frustrations and accomplishments for such nit-picking.