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The literature of widowhood is compelling-Joan Didion's A Year of Magical Thinking had an impact well beyond her usual readership. Novelist Stark, a retired English teacher who's not afraid to invoke the great classic poets, makes a lovely debut in this story of Audrey Eaton, a widow whose road trip is also a healing journey. That plot device is not new, but Eaton's writing is fresh and delicate, successfully expressing nuance in a narrative that is mostly about emotions, not events. Her dialogue is witty and easy; an interlude at a homeless shelter is nice comic relief. The Christian elements required for the evangelical audience are natural for the plot-lots of bereaved people derive comfort from renewed faith. But they're slightly overdone; God's work can be apparent in a story of transformation even without explicit labeling, especially with a narrator given to dignified understatement. If Stark's next book does more showing and less telling with the elements of faith, she could gain the larger audience she deserves. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.