A double portrait of the victims of two dysfunctional families: prematurely aged 25-year-old ex-model Katha Pinnell, trapped in an abusive marriage, and barely teenaged Peter Kramer, left on his own with his two older brothers when their shiftless father takes off. Katha, struggling to make a life in the Hamptons (which have never looked as desolate as here) with her pill-popping husband Tommy--inconsolable ever since mother took ill and his upscale Manhattan lounge, Chinese Stand, burned down with two friends inside because he wouldn't pay protection--strikes up a parlous friendship with Peter, unaware that one of his brothers, Big Dan, has instructed him to steal food from her and that middle brother Sam likes to spy on her and dream about scoring. The fragile bond is tom when Katha finally decides to run away from Tommy to her well-adjusted suburban friend Claire just as Big Dan and Sam--intent on harassing apoplectic neighbor Harold Meeversham--get caught breaking into his house, and all three boys are sent to a home. But when Tommy's mother dies, and Katha, despite what she's learned about that fire, decides to go to her funeral and ends up with Tommy, the stage is set for Peter and his brothers to escape from the home just in time for the catastrophe. Evocative and painfully sensitive about Katha's plight--though this first novel's plot, and even the pivotal relations between its two principals, are understated to the vanishing point.