Unhappily married at 18, indifferent to the sex and the baby that come along with the deal, Murrey can only foresee the rest of her life with husband Paul Collier, a trucker in Louisville in the Fifties, as one long down-curve. Though she never attended college, she writes poetry of some freshness and grace; it's not going to be enough, though, she realizes, to keep her afloat. So she gets a job downtown as a typist, and the relative independence proves refreshing. A friendship, later an affair, with one of the men in the office results, and in time she leaves Paul and the baby and tries making it on her own. With help from her friends, she gets herself on her feet and tests the limits of her freedom--even into the proscribed territory of a sexual liaison with a black man, Rack Bennett. First-novelist Nichols enhances Murrey's quest for independence with a transparent but appealing metaphor: Murrey has a bum knee from an auto accident that sometimes fails her, making ""a leg to stand on"" nicely literal. And Murrey's determination and confusion do register, though never quite in the context of the times; the Fifties liberation seems unspecific, dyed with Seventies pluck. Apart from this hint of anachronism, however, Nichols keeps her material firmly aimed and carefully sent. A sturdy, sincere debut.