Susan Shreve's first novel A Fortunate Madness (1974) was just that--appealingly out of kilter. Her second is more filled out, with the story told in insets, sometimes years apart, dropping a stitch here and there to catch your eye. And your feelings--who can be immune to Martin Fielding, a doctor returning from years of WW II service? Only his wife Jane, who has had as many lovers as new dresses during his absence and continues to be flagrantly unfaithful. This is quite obvious to Emily, their first pre-war child, seven when he returns. Emily is much like her father, closest to him, but self-contained, a spring trap ready to go off. Yes, just like Martin, who one day murders Jane. Emily goes through college with happenstance lovers, becomes pregnant and has her child, Pla, but refuses to marry anyone, and makes her own career as a soap opera heroine. Until she falls in love with Stephen, Stephen who has defaulted on other difficult situations but is ready to take care of Emily and Pia. Only Emily can't handle love. Unworthily you suspect that a little of that soap got in your eyes, but then you'll like Emily and Stephen and Martin and Pia, who have every reason to excuse themselves from life. Susan Shreve has a nice touch--enough to assure that you'll be a soft one.