Marriage under siege is the somewhat one-sided theme of poet and short-fiction writer Driscoll’s poignant first novel, winning him Pushcart’s Editors’ Book Award. Perry and his wife Marcia have been trying for years to have a child, and now panic’s setting in as they approach 40. But the more Marcia frets, the more ambivalent Perry feels. When in the course of his job as a Mystic, Connecticut, parole officer he meets Angela, wife of smart but impulsive check-forger Roland, he has trouble keeping his hands to himself. Angela is just pregnant with child number two; she and Roland are struggling to make ends meet for the sake of their firstborn, who’s not even a year old. Even so, she’s drawn to Perry, who seems to represent everything her husband doesn—t. Unlike Perry, however, Angela knows where to draw the line between fantasy and reality, leaving him remorseful enough about his desires to find Roland a job and a chance to get two feet back under him. Marcia senses her spouse slipping away, especially when he takes their nephew out on the Jetski in rough weather, nearly drowns himself, then almost bleeds to death from a cut incurred while breaking into their apartment. So she moves out to let him think things over—while Roland, already tense about his growing family, does the wrong thing in a job-site confrontation and decides to skip town. Once again, Perry’s involved, trusted by both Angela and Roland, but his assistance brings them only tragedy, while also opening a serious rift between him and Marcia. Visceral stuff, with richly detailed scenes of life on both sides of the tracks. The husbands, though, achieve significantly more substance than their wives, and some of the plotting, especially involving Perry’s family back in Michigan, seems digressive.