Suddenly, after years of false alarms, Beth Asher's mother is near death from cancer, and Beth--who has come to believe that her mother will never die--must confront her own dependence, resentment, love, fear, and procastination in a competent and affecting first novel. Beth, 35, is an imperfect young woman--overweight, timid, compliant--in a family of perfectionists, and she has spent the years since leaving home dodging relationships that might duplicate the cycle of dependency and deprecation she experienced as a child. Now that her domineering mother, Naomi, lies dying in a cancer ward, however, Beth is the only member of the family cool enough and committed enough to care for her, and so Beth leaves her cramped Washington, D.C., apartment, her high-powered but cramping P.R. job and her latest relationship--with Michael, who wants to marry her--to face what she is sure will be the dying disaffection and disapproval of her mother. Her mother surprises her, in different ways, as do her shallow, well-heeled, vicious sister, her glamorous older brother and her weak but sympathetic younger brother, who joins Beth for a touching and convincing death-bed scene; and Beth, chastened by new knowledge of her mother's character and of her own frail, unworkable defenses, is ready to move on and create a new family, with Michael, tot herself. The psychological insights into family life may not be fresh, but they are compelling and delivered with wit and compassion. A satisfying first novel.