February 03, 2003 12:00 PM

by Jo-Ann Mapson

Estranged from her bitter mother and struggling to cope with her twin sister’s death in the Oklahoma City bombing, Mary “Maddy” Madigan has it rough—but some of her new friends have it worse. Nance is an anorectic who lives in a house with several other self-pitying women. They include wheelchair-bound Phoebe DeThomas, who was left heartbroken after her fiancé died in a car accident before their wedding.

Last seen in Bad Girl Creek, this crew may sound like an unpleasant bunch, but Mapson makes their travails surprisingly uplifting. What could have been a formulaic story about healing becomes an engrossing read about friendship and facing reality. From time to time Mapson hits a false note, but readers will cheer the way the characters fight for each other, refuse to tolerate self-destructive behavior and set a standard for friendship. (Simon & Schuster, $24)

BOTTOM LINE: Join the rah-rah sisterhood

Page-turner of the week

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