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Set in the author's native Australia in the early 1980s, this sensitive debut novel weaves and bobs between two time frames as the narrator, Jennifer, tries to understand the death of her older sister, 14-year-old Beth, who fell from a water tower. In the prevailing view, Beth was wild: she had sex with strangers and fell asleep, drunk, in neighbors' yards. But the girls' grandmother believes that Beth once saw an angel and had a bit of grace in her ever since, and that her acts were her attempts to save people. Jennifer sees evidence of both, remembering that "the more [Beth] glowed, the wilder she got." Trying to understand Beth's decline and to cope with her own grief, which has deprived her of her singing voice, Jennifer searches for clues in a box of Beth's belongings. Tangents may confuse; at times, the litany of small details and anecdotes burden the plot. But the metaphors embedded in the story and the luscious prose ( a teacher's eyes are "a flat gray-green and impenetrable as a crocodile's") will hold readers until the moving conclusion. Ages 14-up. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.