In A Little Breathing Room, Ray Decker, 13, was finally provoked into standing up to his unreasonable, heavy-drinking father. Now, in 1940, Ray is 18 and his kid brother Bud is 13 (though both seem younger); his father has reformed and behaves quite decently, but home life is made miserable by the mother, who lets no opportunity or family meal go by without reminding Dad of past transgressions or interpreting the boys' behavior as offenses against her. This begins touchingly enough with the death of Ray's grandmother; then it proceeds, with the parents' miserable marriage ever in the background, through the firing of a pretty new English teacher Ray has a crush on (and sees too much of to escape the small-town gossips), through Ray's encounters with his best friend's lovely mother (long widowed by suicide) who entices him into bed one lonely winter night, and through the disintegration of the friend himself, who ""falls"" from a Ferris wheel at one point and grows increasingly vicious until Ray, at the end, hops a train for the wide world and leaves the other boy to his inevitable suicide. Was life really this bleak in Rock River, Minnesota? As before, Graber puts in some tangible, small-town textures, and he is good at projecting the scenes from Ray's callow point of view. But without the father/son conflict--and resolution--of the earlier book, this one seems incohesive; and instead of giving it shape the ending seems to be abandoning all the fragments to their separate downward paths.