An occasionally funny but finally didactic and slow-moving first novel about the wife of a Foreign Service officer who has an affair with a Jordanian cabinet minister. Mercedes Mann--the alcoholic wife of an ambitious career diplomat who has just been assigned as Deputy Chief of Mission in Amman--has spent the last ten years in various postings in Asia, ""her head bursting with cultural experiences she had been too drunk to fully absorb,"" before drying out at a Hong Kong hospital (along with Judy Garland). She stays sober in Amman--not a good place to drink, in any event--and finds herself attracted to Nabil Dajani, the Jordanian Minister of Public Works, a Palestinian who is not only honest but is sincerely struggling for an answer to the problems that plague the Middle East. They don't actually have an affair until the Manns return to Washington on home leave, when Mercedes (sans bubble Harry, who is out of town) runs into the visiting Dajani. Unfortunately, Cruz's gift for comedy (amply evidenced in scenes describing Mercedes' drying out with Garland) deserts her here; Dajani and Mercedes have less an affair than a lengthy, decidedly authorial dialogue on the Middle East, its troubled history and uncertain future; and by the time the book Winds down to its inevitable close (with the two splitting up as Dajani flies back to his country), one finds oneself wishing Mercedes would take another drink and stop talking politics. A novel that could've used more show, and less tell, but from a writer with a promising talent for comedy.