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Mars follows her memoir (A Month of Sundays) with a midlife crisis bildungsroman that is largely unexceptional, though not without charm. New Yorker Ellen Kenny, a 46-year-old ex-hippie, takes a side trip on the way to Montreal to visit her sister and impulsively buys a decrepit house with her credit card. This startles her husband, Tommy, and the effect that Ellen's sudden purchase has on their marriage encompasses the most interesting and touching parts of this novel. Less successful are Ellen's entanglements in her new small hometown: her friendships with two feuding local rednecks, Rayfield and Rodney; her temporary guardianship of her sister's son; and her strange dreams that inspired the house purchase and swirl with the secrets of everyone she knows. The narrative often resorts to silliness, camp (Rayfield nicknamed his obese ex-wife "Doublewide") and mood-spoiling stereotypes (Ellen's Peruvian brother-in-law, for instance, plays the pan flute on street corners). The clumsiness, however, does not entirely overwhelm the moments of sweetness and light humor, and though there's nothing that really sings, it's a passable story of self-discovery and self-improvement. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.