Australian writer Winton (Cloudstreet, 1992, etc.), back for a 14th book, notes with humor and intelligent affection the havoc domestic cruelties wreak on the loving heart. In language deceptively simple and true--his dialogue hardly ever strikes a false note--Winton tells the story of Australian Fred Scully, a man with ``his big heart there in his shirt,'' who comes close to madness as he searches for his missing wife, Jennifer. Scully has a face that though ``severely used was warm and handsome in its way...was the face of an optimist, of a man eager to please and happy to give ground.'' Believing in life's endless possibilities, Scully has in 30 years tried many things- -truck driving, fishing, college--and now, in present time, is rebuilding a neglected cottage in Ireland. The cottage--bought on impulse after spending two years in Europe while Jennifer, a dissatisfied and self-absorbed civil servant, tried to find herself--is to be their new home. And while Scully fixes it up, Jennifer and daughter Billie return to Australia to sell their house. Scully, who is soon befriended by the local mailman, works hard to get the house finished in time for his wife and daughter's return, but when he goes to the airport to meet them, only Billie is there. Exhausted and in a state of shock, she refuses to talk, and the next day a desperately hurt, confused Scully sets off with his daughter to find Jennifer--a wrenchingly bitter journey of body and soul that takes the pair to Greece, Italy, Paris, and finally to Amsterdam. There, with the help of the remarkably loving and resilient Billie, Scully regains his senses, realizing at last that he can no longer waste his life ``waiting for something promised.'' Emotions, character, and intellect so perfectly calibrated that a modest story of love betrayed becomes, in Winton's hands, a minor masterpiece.