Slender, quietly compelling second novel (What Waiting Really Means, 1990) in which a middle-aged woman, gathering wisdom along the way, looks back over a troubled past. In her early 40s, Kate has at last reached a point where she is ``finally concentrating on what I can see and touch,'' having learned that ``life isn't a jigsaw puzzle'' in which everything, including love affairs, must connect. She recalls her often difficult and mostly unhappy journey to this point in a series of letters to and from Parker, a friend, and in a series of first- person narratives. A student in late 1950's Detroit (when ``Hemingway was the big gun in the English Department, but Lady Chatterley was passed around''), Kate fell in love with 56-year-old Francis, a bookseller with an invalid wife. He loved Kate, she believes, because old men can pretend better with a young woman; but then Francis died suddenly, and she fled Detroit for a small town. Deeply depressed, she began seeing a psychiatrist, to whom she described her unhappy and disturbed childhood, her devastation at the loss of Francis, and her unsatisfactory affairs with men as troubled as herself. Gradually--and this is revealed best in the letters--Kate begins to heal. She starts a reading group for black teenagers, which she continues as the riots devastate the city to which she has recently returned. A new love affair and a willingness to make friends give her finally a measure of tranquillity--which might sound like an easy psychobabble solution, but Seese is too intelligent and too good a writer for something as trite as that. An ordinary story of an ordinary woman made memorable by the author's wry sense of humor, honesty, and eye for human foibles. Small but good.