In her second novel, Diane Hammond ("Going to Bend") returns to the imaginary town of Hubbard on the Oregon coast. In "Homesick Creek," Hammond explores...

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“Homesick Creek”

by Diane Hammond

Doubleday, 341 pp., $23.95

In her second novel, Diane Hammond (“Going to Bend”) returns to the imaginary town of Hubbard on the Oregon coast. In “Homesick Creek,” Hammond explores the betrayal of marriage in a working-class community, the day-to-day struggles, and also the triumph of friendship.

Bunny Neary has waitressed at Anchor Grill for two decades and is well-liked by her customers. Bunny is married to Hank, a pleasant Vietnam vet who drifted into the town some years back with a past she doesn’t comprehend too well. “(T)here were times when he got sad, got lost-looking, and homesick for some place he’d never been.”

Bunny’s anxieties about her marriage come to a head when she overhears a telephone chat between Hank and another young woman who works at the same car dealership. But it’ll be a long time before Bunny learns the truth about Hank.

Meanwhile, she maintains a close friendship with Anita, and their bond nourishes both their hungry souls. Once a beauty queen, Anita is married to Bob, a man of little ambition, who has since turned into an alcoholic.

The two are barely getting by — a situation exacerbated by the liaison Bob has been carrying on for many years without Anita’s knowledge. “If she was bitter now — and there were days when she was bitter enough to curdle milk — it was herself she blamed, not Bob.” Will Anita’s dream of owning a house ever be fulfilled?

The plot, particularly the tragic unfolding of Bob and Anita’s relationship, is predictable and, at times, it is difficult to wade through pages and pages filled with heartbreak. The characters, however, come alive, their voices are natural, and Hammond’s language is spare and beautiful.