A Baton Rouge matron flees to Jersey City to start life anew, only to find herself in a no-man's-land of rent strikes, hired thugs, and life-threatening potholes--in this earthy comedy by Sharp (The Imposter, 1991; The Woman Who Was Not All There, 1988). Like most southern women, Ida Terhune was taught to assume she would always be cared for by a man. When her husband and father passed away on the same day, leaving Ida with one child and another on the way, she naturally married the first suitor who presented himself, the gentlemanly Harlan Terhune. As it turned out, Harlan had little interest in Ida and even less in her children, so after years of emotional neglect, stiff-necked, polyester-pant-suited Ida decides she has no choice but to pack the kids into her Chrysler and flee to the Jersey City apartment of her best friend, Betty Trombley. There, Ida is disturbed to find that action-addicted Betty has joined her fellow slum tenants in an all-out war against their landlord, who's allowed a lake of sewer water to rise to shin level on the basement floor. As Ida's children nimbly accustom themselves to hanging out with the homeless, wandering the broken, abandoned sidewalks of Jersey City, and shoplifting in their spare time, Ida struggles genteelly to leave the apartment, find a job, and arrange for a decent education for her kids. The theft of her car sends this stalwart lady reeling so off-center that she ends up accidentally killing the landlord's thuggish son--but just as she faces a life sentence in prison, another male savior appears, this time in the form of her eccentric Brazilian-American defense attorney, who'll win Ida's heart as he rescues her from doom. Sharp painstakingly sets up a number of comic situations that fizzle out disappointingly in the end--but this antic novel charms nevertheless with its frantic humor and roguish cast.