Virginia Hamilton goes home again to the hill country, where Sarah's mountain has belonged to M.C.'s family ("and them to it") ever since an ancestor fleeing slavery settled there with her infant. Now M.C., thirteen, worries about the spoil pile left from strip mining that seems destined to come sliding down on their house, and when "the Dude," an outsider with a tape recorder, arrives to "take" Mama's voice, M.C. imagines that he will also take Mama away to make records -- affording them all a chance to escape the spoil heap despite his Daddy's stubborn refusal to move or to acknowledge the danger. Also arriving with (but not traveling with) the Dude, however, is a lonely but independent girl named Lurhetta, who shakes up M.C.'s confidence, indirectly needles him to rethink his connection with the land and the coming disaster, and shames him into venturing onto the mound of the shunned, "witchy" Killburns, an extended family of red-haired and six-fingered vegetarians. (Significantly, where M.C. proudly surveys the countryside from atop a gleaming 40-foot pole that is exclusively his, the numberless, communally cared for Killburn children toss and climb on a giant web of rope and vine.) Hamilton is at her best here; the soaring but firmly anchored imagery, the slant and music of everyday speech, the rich and engaging characters and warm, tough, wary family relationships, the pervasive awareness of both threat and support connected with the mountain -- all mesh beautifully in theme and structure to create a sense of organic belonging.