Antonia (Tony), Karen (Charis), and Roz are three 50-ish Toronto friends, pals since college, all of whom have had to negotiate (and none too well) the treacheries of another friend, Zenia--someone who in the past has stolen a significant man from each of the others. But Zenia, they are led relievedly to understand, has been dead for some years--blown up in a Beirut bomb blast; they had carefully attended, together, her memorial service to make doubly sure. Yet why does the very selfsame Zenia now appear across the room one afternoon at a restaurant where the three women are lunching? It creates turmoil. Tony--a college military historian with a milquetoasty composer husband and an annoying tic of spelling words backwards; doggedly hippie Charis, New Age-y survivor of incest, and lover of a US draft-dodger; and Roz, power-businesswoman despite herself, wife of a sad-sack philanderer--all of the massed trio views Zenia not only as a communal threat, but as a chastening, changeable contrast to the courses of their own lives. Atwood (Wilderness Tips, 1991; Cat's Eye, 1989, etc.) does a professionally tidy job with the outline of this social comedy, but apart from some poetic turbocharging around Charis's memories of abuse, plus a nice capture of modern manners most of the time, the book lacks luster: it could be a more brittle, smarter Rona Jaffe novel. Atwood seems to want to make the three unlikely friends both representative of their age, place, and times--but also not: the flaky names and square-peg lifestyles argue for an individualism none of the women quite achieves. And Zenia, the fox among these chickens, is utterly cloudy, a trope instead of a character. Amusing sometimes, but flogged and padded--hardly one of Atwood's better efforts.