Alther, still long-winded and better at caricature than characterization, recaptures some of the energy and humor of her first (and most successful) 1976 novel Kinflicks after two disappointing outings (Other Women, 1984; Original Sins, 1981). Clea Shawn, a successful (if shallow) N.Y.C. photographer whose hobby has been extramarital passion (""Hormones had always been her recreational drug of choice""), seeks new meaning when her globe-trotting husband and grown children leave her with the empty nest. She buys a house in the small Vermont town of Roches Ridge, where she expects a life of traditional values. She also meets colorful locals right away, but gossip, cruelty, and mayhem disturb the idyll. And leaving New York also means leaving her best friend Elke--for whom the horrors of childhood in wartime Germany led to a doom-and-gloom outlook (as well as to fame for woodcuts and sculpture depicting man's brutality) and with whom Clea has shared an unconsummated passion. Alther has a penchant for repeating the same material too many times--with little or no variation--from different points of view. And she's done much of this--fashionable mysticism, lesbian communes in Vermont--before. Still, there are moments of frae satire along the way as Clea decides whether to stay in Vermont, and as she and Elke try to find reconciliation, both in terms of their relationship and their conveniently antipodal views of life. While her characters have moved on to menopause, it doesn't seem as though Alther has grown. Fun, nonetheless, for her fans.