Poet Kasischke’s second novel (after Suspicious River, 1996) is a mix of the fine and the irritating that glides slowly downward to an airy nothing. Life in suburban Garden Heights, Ohio, becomes at once more exciting and more miserable for teenaged Katrina Connors when she falls in love with classmate and next-door neighbor Phil: the new-found sex is wonderful, but Katrina’s already exceeding-strange mother gets suddenly all the more antagonistic, cruel, and unpredictable—and then disappears entirely, never to be heard from again except for one phone call (or so Kat believes) declaring she—ll never come home again. Good riddance, many a reader will say, to this woman who through boredom, sexual unhappiness, ingrained habit, pure spite, and unmitigated meanness routinely derided her admittedly dull-witted husband (a school administrator named Brock) and did no better by her daughter, choosing her name because “She wanted a cat,” overfondling her in childhood, then manically humiliating her in teenhood when Phil comes on the scene. Nevertheless, Mom’s disappearance triggers a sense of enormous emptiness in Kat (—there are no adjectives for this lightness I feel, this whiteness—) that gets labeled “anxiety disorder,” parallels suburban Ohio’s emptiness itself, and takes her to a psychoanalyst, where—well, where the book’s trouble begins, seeming uncertain where to go next. A year will pass, two, then three; Kat starts college; Phil and Kat break up; we meet eccentric grandmothers, Phil’s mother (she’s blind), Kat’s girlfriends (they smoke, drink, and gossip in the basement), the Detective Scieziesciez (it’s pronounced ’shh-shh-shh—), whom Kat seduces (he’s more manly than Dad), beginning a long affair; and then, and then . . . . Then all will end surprisingly indeed, with Mom, as it happens, never having left home at all, but just, well—chilling out. Ambitious writing in equal parts elegant and excessive, with a psychology that spins out of control and goes poof.