Maggie Clary misses her womb. After 58 whole-bodied and even-keeled years living in the Hollywood bungalow where she was raised, a hysterectomy has dumped her into a state of quiet despair. None of life’s usual pleasures—shopping with her best girlfriend, Connie, Bloody Marys at Musso & Franks, or looping work with her film redubbing group, Prime Loops—set Maggie on fire anymore (though a quick tumble with her therapist, a cliché in the making, comes close to reviving her spark). The sitcom-style search (family, friends, and co-workers pitch in) for a solution to Maggie’s depression lies at the heart of LOOP GROUP (Simon & Schuster), a California slapstick romp from LARRY MCMURTRY . The author, newly freed from a two-year stint churning out westerns, with the Berrybender Narratives, is a nearly Olympian presence here, pushing his characters this way and that and eventually to his native Texas. When Maggie decides to clear the emotional cobwebs with a road trip to see family in Electric City, Connie has no choice but to join in; the pair hit the highway with maxed-out credit cards, a loaded .38 Special, and only a glimmer of an idea where they’re headed. Predictably unpredictable adventures ensue, including one with Maggie’s oddball Aunt Cooney, who runs a chicken gulag with more than two million birds from her 32-room Texas mansion. And then, suddenly, McMurtry brings the two back to Hollywood for a too-convenient wrap-up. It’s a quirky and amusing novel, but Zeus himself couldn’t transform Loop Group into the tragicomic odyssey it aspires to be.