When a narrator opens her tale by declaring, I lost my sanity buying frozen apple juice, the reader knows shes in for a witty ride. The narrator is Leah Thornton, a 27-year-old Southerner, English teacher, and middle-stage alcoholic. Shes got her reasons: her only child died of SIDS and her sexual relationship with her husband, Carl, is so troubled their marriage is devolving into a standoff between hostility and frigidity. Leah is steered into rehab by her BFF Molly, which kicks off transformation through growing honesty, self-awareness, and large doses of wry humor. Allan draws many strong, quirky minor characters: Leahs rehab roomie, Theresa, one of a rehab units worth of addicts of all manner of substances; Leahs wry obstetrician, Dr. Nolan. A few supporting charactersCarls wealthy parentsfeel more caricatured than characterized, and the largely unsympathetic portrait of Carl makes the reader wonder why the marriage is worth saving at all. A few major developments toward the books end cry out for greater resolution. But Leah is fascinating, complicated, and above all funny. This nonformulaic look at the spiritual redemption of a life is a bright start; debut novelist Allan is one to watch. (Feb.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.