Psychologist and first-time author Mitchell offers a highly entertaining and unusually illuminating study of female bonding The focus here is on the time-tested but undeniably complex friendships among four African-American women who first met in college. The long-suffering Gayle has wanted for years to return to school for an advanced degree, but instead she toils away at an unfulfilling desk job in order to remain at home in Cleveland and care for her ailing mother, alcoholic father, and withdrawn brother. The glamorous Monique is flawless on the outside, a mess within; a successful attorney, she hides her emotional, warmhearted side from the world with a tough-girl, ultraconfident veneer. Cynthia is insecure and lonely and will do almost anything to meet Mr. Right; unfortunately, several Mr. Wrongs will cause her to make some decisions that have drastic consequences. And, finally, there's Roxanne, highly educated, attractive, and good-natured to a fault, but she can barely make ends meet with her job as an inner-city teacher and the hours she devotes to volunteer work. In Minnesota, where the girls met at a small liberal arts school populated almost exclusively by white kids, friendship seemed easy but romance was hard to come by. Now that they've been out in the world for almost eight years, however, both friendship and men are trouble. It'll take a reunion at Cynthia's condo in Tampa, and an unexpected crisis, to get these four very different but equally loving and worthy women to realize that for all these years they've been looking in all the wrong places. Nothing groundbreaking here, just another ``girltalk'' novel, but this one has heart and, even rarer, soul.