A first novel that goes back over the old ground of the protest days against the war in Vietnam. Ruth is a gift from Brooklyn, tough and smart, who marries Mark Levin, bright, committed, and future-filled. But then comes the war, and Levin, conscience-driven into despair, goes mad: "". . .in 1970, when I was thirty and the United States was pouring troops into Cambodia. . .Levin went into a mental hospital. He saw the world disintegrating and all its inhabitants crawling with diseases."" To be near Levin, Ruth moves to the town where he's hospitalized, takes a library job, and rents a house. What happens? Well, next door lives bigger-than-life earth-mother Laura Green, her English professor husband David Glassman, their four children (one is born before our very eyes), and assorted friends, communal hangers-on, and activists. As Laura Green throws all her powers into drawing Ruth back into the rich stew of life 60's-style (""But I can't stand the bullshit small talk. I want to know you, I want you to know me, I want to share your experience and, Jesus, you must be incredibly strong""), Laura herself has a Levin-esque attack of despair (while watching the war news on TV), and up and runs out on the whole kit and caboodle, including new baby. This leaves Ruth to hold the fort, have an affair with the left-behind David Glassman, and join in yet another campus takeover. Then: Laura's return to house and communal hearth sets everything to rights. Except that Levin, making no progress back in the asylum, hangs himself, leaving the would-be revitalized Ruth with the burden of loss and guilt that leads her, in time, to write this novel. The many moments of sassy brightness (""smoking made my lungs feel like twin hibachis"") are just about balanced out by the dreary rhythms of the jargon endemic to the period (""There's a revolution happening, or there would be if we'd just shut down and let it happen""). If you can accept the too-easy war/despair motif, and tune out the longer doses of trendy sloganeering, there's some substance here that can move you, especially in the death of Levin. Earnest and uneven, though doubtless a time-trip for many.