One of a slim little pair (see Huddle, below) in this publisher's novella series: author of the collection A Parallel Life (1992), Beeman labors here to rise above the saccharine. For method, she has chosen to write brief chapters as ``spoken'' by a rotating variety of characters, and let there be a caveat to that reader who takes no pleasure in waiting patiently to find out who's who and what's happened. Time and chapters will reveal, though, that, somewhere in northern California, Mattie (who paints) is married to Evan, though she did also love also-artist Gordon and go to stay in Italy with him when he was dying of a brain tumor; that lawyer Joel (`` `I think this acknowledgement of mine that I'm an animal helps me attract women' '') was married to Anna, then wasn't, then fell in love with troubled and unstable Sallywho died by driving off a cliffand then re-hitched with Anna again; that Anna herself used to be a nun (``On the day I first met Anna, when she told me she'd once been a nun, it knocked me out'') and nevertheless did (when still a nun) have an affair with Mark (a priest); and that Mattiemarried to Evan but still mourning the gone Gordonis the sister of Sally, whose death causes Joel's peroration, `` `What's fair? Sally's dead. A fragile spirit is dead,' '' followed by: ``He began to sob, huge choking sobs that set his chest heaving.'' Writing that's earnest but unseasoned; to borrow a metaphor from wine, this has promise but isn't yet quite ready for decanting.