A choppy road-novel examining the friendship between two women from different cultures, by the author of Flower Shadows (1991). Farish's tale concerns Laurel, the daughter of an Air Force colonel and an absentee mother who dreams of flying. Through a convoluted series of events (car accident, the Gulf War), she ends up driving to Lowell, Mass., with a Cambodian refugee named Chanty and her infant son. The two women are said to develop a close relationship along the way, but it's not a very convincing one, since Laurel generally, more than anything, seems surly and irritated with her traveling companion. The more interesting character here is Chanty, who is half fleeing from and half running to a violent Cambodian man, but the third-person narrative focuses on Laurel, letting Chanty be seen through her eyes as an enigma. Carefully crafted parallels are frequently worked into the story (the Pol Pot regime and the Gulf War; Laurel's feeling of having been abandoned by her mother and Chanty's offhand relationship with her son), but they lurk behind individually weak scenes that, in turn, are rendered in prose that at first seems appealingly disjointed and minimalist but over the long haul begins to grate. At one point, when Chanty enters a military recruiting office, the recruiter cannot ``move his gaze from her thigh and the net shirt she wore over skin which he could see when the bomber jacket fell open.'' Here, as throughout the story, a very, very great deal is provided about the very close up, while the background--and the depth--are left thin. This YA author's second adult effort is not especially successful, but at least the novel--to its credit--fails for intriguing reasons.