In the hefty follow-up to her comeback success, Over Easy, Mimi Pond concludes her fictionalized memoir of slinging hash at a bohemian diner in Oakland's drug-fuelled early eighties. The setting provides a parade of colourful characters – Colombian hit men, chic hippie cokeheads, gun-toting vintage store sirens – who help cram the book with so much gonzo activity that it would begin to strain credulity, were it not for its origins in autobiography (one single night veers from conning the Mafia to fighting with bikers to infiltrating a juke joint, like an East Bay Taxi Driver). Mainly, though, this volume deepens the kinship between Pond's struggling-artist avatar, Madge, and the café's guru-cum-manager, part-time poet Lazlo. As her co-workers nod off in the bathroom and Lazlo's cheerful sang-froid collapses, Madge has an awakening: She needs to get out. Pond's observant portrait of life in one's mid-20s is keenly aware of how aimlessness can become desperation. Her bubbly figures, moon-faced and lanky, boil over with cartoony rage, but also succumb to depression and – shockingly – bodily harm. The distance between Pond's peppy, open-hearted style and sometimes grisly subject matter complements how her characters put up a good front while life crumbles around them.