A strange, maddeningly monotonic yet touching novel about a wandering, defeated young man and the woman he marries. Wealthy Camille, daughter of a successful father and distraught alcoholic mother, is attracted at college to Harry Talbot, who seems to radiate a simplicity and honesty among his hippie friends. Before their marriage Camille travels with him to his California home --father in absentia, cold, hard-grained mother, an adopted sex-crazed young Mexican, a comatose grandmother. After marriage, the pattern of Harry's life becomes increasingly obvious -- a series of roles played, child-like, along the surface of events. (""He makes up things,"" Camille rationalizes, ""that's part of being a poet,"") but even Harry's poetry is a reflection of the personalities of others. Destroyed by his mother's final rejection, Harry is desperately determined to please Camille, who is pregnant, accepts her fears of a prowler at their cabin, and kills a man. Extenuating circumstances free Harry, but Camille, horrified, cannot return to him. At the close Harry leaves with his vagabond father, and Camille, diminished, contemplates an unrewarding life. An ambitious and moving story, but the characters -- with the exception of Harry -- never really convince. Hard substance with soft, slick treatment.