GOING AWAY PARTY is Laura Pedersen's first novel, and winner of the Three Oaks Prize for Fiction. (Story Line Press, 2001.)

On the angst-o-meter, Jess MacGuire, the 20-year old girl/woman protagonist in this romantic comedy noir, makes CATCHER IN THE RYE's Holden Caulfield sound as if he was having a bad hair day. If the Age of Information has conferred all sorts of new and wonderful opportunities upon a recent college graduate at the dawning of the 21st century, Jess is failing to find them. After $100,000 in tuition, dutifully paid by parents who, by underwriting said education now own stock in the educatee, and therefore have a majority shareholder vote, Jess is stuck living back home until she finds a job. And after 200 resumes, 52 cover letters, 26 degrading interviews, and the contents of her parents' liquor cabinet, she is demoralized, depressed, and a doubloons throw away from taking a McJob as the tartar saucebuckling pirate hostess at the High Seas Seafood all-you-can-eatery at the local shopping mall. That is, until the bad news arrives that she is three inches too tall for the obligatory buccaneer ensemble.

Enter Denny Sinclair, local TV weatherman and middle-aged mysterious stranger who may know more about Jess's mother than she does. He's certainly handsome, in that mail-order catalogue sort of way, and though he may not be Mr. Right, he's unquestionably Mr. Right Now. And sometimes in the suburbs, that's about the most one can hope for, particularly if you don't play Scrabble or Bingo. But is Denny Sinclair a role model or a cautionary tale? And what's in it for him?

Two temporarily dislocated souls meet at life's crossroads and search for answers while Jess simultaneously hopes and fears that we eventually turn into our parents after all.