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From The CriticsWalbert's first novel is an understated coming-of-age story. The narrator, Ellen, recounts her life to her daughter, including the unspoken love she once had for her cousin Randall, her haphazard courtship with her daughter's father and the pivotal friendship she forged with a precocious young woman during her lonely college days. What makes Walbert's debut so satisfying is the engaging way she layers her characters' lives, as well as her masterful ability to set a mood. The novel skillfully links issues surrounding forbidden and lost love (which for these characters amounts to one and the same thing) and deals with family secrets and ghosts (both psychological and paranormal). Walbert lets her characters' dark pasts slowly and surprisingly unfold, which adds an enticing element of intrigue to the story. The author's lyrical and elegant style, which has garnered her an O. Henry Award and a Pushcart Prize, makes this an especially enjoyable read.