|Publication date||April 1992|
|Media type||print (hardback & paperback)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0916366731 (first edition, hardback)|
|Followed by||The Ice Storm|
The novel is about three young people in their early 20s living in Haledon, New Jersey. Although the exact year in which the novel is set is unclear, it appears to be the early 1980s. The book's protagonist is Alice, a young woman who struggles to maintain a dating relationship with a young man named Dennis. Dennis' half-brother, Lane, recently attempted to commit suicide, and has just been released from a state mental institution following this attempt to end his life. Alice, Dennis and Lane struggle to make the passage to adulthood even as their families and the economy crumble around them, and new social mores, music and politics tempt them in different directions. As in many of author Rick Moody's novels, the events chronicled in the book culminate in a cathartic event (in this case, a rave in a warehouse) which leads to several epiphanies among the major characters.
Much of the novel focuses on the many ways in which Alice's and Dennis' parents fail to successfully nurture and raise their children or adapt to the changing economic and social circumstances of the time. "Change" is also an important theme in the novel, including the ways new genres of music, economic restructuring, and post-adolescence cause rapid and sometimes debilitating changes in people. The security (even if it is stifling) of family and familiar surroundings (even the mental institution) are contrasted with the unknown quantity that is New York City, a frightening but alluring place to Alice, Dennis and Lane.