A debut novel that's most satisfying for its crackling, energetic prose. Until Jesse Walker turned ten and her father left ""to live on a sailboat christened Ketch-11 that took him around the world twice but never home again,"" he used to tell her The One True Story of the World--in which, each night, they decided how the world would end. Now, at age 34, Jesse believes our lives are the narratives we tell ourselves, and she's inherited a much-practiced talent for leaving. She breaks with her married lover, a philosopher (and apparent source, along with a college boyfriend, of the philosophical language and stance that give the novel a unifying tone). Then, heading west, drunk, in a car without headlights, Jesse collides with a Mack truck, and later escapes from the hospital barefoot (in December) with nothing but the hospital gown on her back. She hitches a ride with Lucky, a literary pig-farmer who takes her home and gives her work--carpentry, laying floors. In spite of Jesse's resistance to sentiment, the two fall in love--but they fight after Lucky loses the farm, and Jesse steals his Jaguar and splits. Back home in California, she learns that in spite of her mastery of traditional male skills and attitudes, she--like any woman--can be a victim of rape. At last, Jesse reveals that her father actually committed suicide (she found the body), and she decides to rebuild his old ketch. Unconvincing at its core, but introducing a markedly talented new voice.