Talk about timing! With relations between African-American men and women in the spotlight as never before, here comes McMillan's report from the front: her bawdy, vibrant, deliciously readable third novel (Mama, Disappearing Acts) is the story of four black women friends and their frequently disastrous encounters with black men. The four are in their mid-to-late 30s, middle-class women making good money, and they live in Phoenix. Savannah, who has everything she wants except a man, has just moved from Denver, partly to be close to best friend Bernadine, whose 11-year-old marriage has collapsed. Super-successful ``buppie'' (black yuppie) John has tricked Bernadine every which way, but his greatest betrayal is crossing the color line to snare a California blond; now Bernadine must raise their two kids alone. Her friends Robin and Gloria are not having any better luck: Robin is a backsliding bubblehead whose study of astrology has not cured her weakness for ``pretty men with big dicks'' who use and abuse her, while the only male in overweight, matronly Gloria's life is her teenage son Tarik, a source of both anxiety and pride. We watch these women in a swirl of motion: working, partying, dishing, dating, and consoling each other on their misfortunes with men. Their consensus is that ``black men play too many games'' and are terrified of making commitments, even if they're buppies (``riffraff comes in all kinds of packages''). Two points here: First, McMillan's novel is not indiscriminately bashing brothers--there are good men out there (both Bernadine and Gloria have fine prospects by the end), and women cannot escape all the blame (Savannah's inability to say the three magic words costs her dearly). Second, these women do not mope. The story's best scene has them falling-down drunk at Gloria's hilarious birthday party; indeed, they are as timeless as Molly Bloom or the Wife of Bath in their robust sensuality. A novel that hits so many exposed nerves is sure to be a conversation-piece: it has heart and pizzazz and even, yes, the sweet smell of the breakthrough book.