A tremendously likable first novel about the catastrophe- marked childhood, youth, and mangled adulthood of a tough-fibered woman who almost beaches herself in guilt and grief. Terrible things are about to happen to Dolores Price, only child of brittle, vulnerable Bernice and weak, randomly abusive Tony. Tony leaves Bernice sometime after the stillbirth of their son, and after a week playing with little Dolores in a new backyard pool, when the child expects a lifetime of floating with Daddy. Then Bernice completely flips out and goes to a mental hospital; Dolores is taken to live with Grandma in Rhode Island on Pierce Street (which ``smelled of car exhaust and frying food. Glass shattered, people screamed, kids threw rocks''). Later, Ma returns and works collecting tolls on the Newport Bridge, while friendless Dolores attends a corrosive parochial school. But all welcome Grandma's new tenant, dazzling Jack, a radio DJ who, when Dolores is 13, rapes her in a dog pound. The person Dolores runs to is heart-of-gold Roberta, empress of the Peacock Tattoo Emporium across the street. In spite of the strangled but loyal love of Ma and Grandma, the palship of Roberta, and the kindness of a gentle gay guidance-counsellor, Dolores is about to go under. She becomes a mountain of fat, and soon is convinced that she's responsible for the death of Jack's baby--but also of Bernice, who's killed by a car. At a Pennsylvania college, Dolores knows that her destiny is to ``kill what people love.'' There's some good psychiatry and a bad marriage before the peaceful and upbeat close. Lamb has a broad satiric touch with some satisfying fat targets (the warfare of Pierce Street, etc.). And in spite of hard, hard times and crazy coincidences, Dolores' career is a pleasure to follow, as she barrels through--with a killer mouth and the guts of a sea lion. A warmblooded, enveloping tale of survival, done up loose and cheering.