Steamy southern bayous, complete with sinkholes of guilt, love, madness, and plenty of sex--this may be Daniell's first novel, but it's territory that she's trekked through before in two memoirs, Sleeping With Soldiers (1984) and Fatal Flowers (1980). Easter O'Brian has risen from her humble beginnings on a dirt farm near Mobile, Alabama, to become an artist of some renown. She is interviewed by art magazines, and her strange, often shocking, paintings are featured in New York exhibits. Along the way, she has paid a price--first, at the hands of her abusive father, later becoming an unwed mother at age 15, enduring a loveless marriage and, finally, suffering through the overwhelming problems of two of her grown children, one psychotic, the other a junkie. In the 1950's as a Good Housekeeping-approved kind of suburban wife, Easter begins taking covert trips to the French Quarter in New Orleans. Watching a transvestite strip-show one night, she realizes ``I had just had my first taste of real perversity. Later, when I involuntarily researched drug addiction, I learned how addicts from the first moment of contact with their drug of choice were hooked, and I was into that.'' Easter, hooked on sex and art, flings off the confines of marriage and goes out to experience all that she can get. But the once-exhilarating 1960's liberation theme is tempered here with its 1990's implications. As Easter looks back, she wonders how accountable she is for her children's troubles. As her son and daughter return from jail or the methadone clinic, she worries about ``the virus.'' The answers she needs do not come easily--she'll continue paying the price. Easter's story is compelling, if unsettling, and, at moments, downright distasteful. Not everyone shares her penchant for perversity, and Daniell's sex scenes tend more toward the seamy than the steamy. Still, Easter O'Brian emerges, vivid as one of her own paintings, affecting as any grieving mother and real to the bone.