Cond (Windward Heights, etc.) churns out novels the way the sea churns waves: gracefully, effortlessly and one after the other. Her 12th and most cathartic to date begins on the French-Caribbean island of Guadeloupe when the pregnant, teenaged Reynalda attempts to drown herself in the sea. Good-hearted Ran lise pulls her out, nurses her back to health and cares for newborn Marie-No lle when Reynalda leaves for France. After 10 years, a letter from Reynalda arrives, ordering Marie-No lle to join her in France. A cold and aloof mother, Reynalda spends her days as a social worker and her evenings at work on her thesis, leaving husband Ludovic to nurture their baby son and Marie-No lle. As a teenager, Marie-No lle contracts tuberculosis and spends time at a sanatorium school; later, she moves to Boston, where she attends university and marries an innovative jazz musician. No matter where she is, she can't rise above a fog of despair caused by a lack of familial identity, compounded by her feelings of displacement, and she remains preoccupied with discovering the identity of her father. But returning to Guadeloupe for the first time, she finds neither the idyllic life of her childhood nor the answers she had expected, but rather an island rife with ramshackle housing and old acquaintances who now resent her. Though Marie-No lle is constantly surrounded by idiosyncratic characters, her self-absorption contributes much to the melancholy pace of the narrative, which may leave many Cond fans longing for her earlier punchy and passionate heroines. But Cond once again proves her ability to gracefully capture the voice of the Caribbean diaspora. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.