Long-time fans, especially those familiar with the Hand clan (previously introduced in Net of Jewels, 1992; I Cannot Get You Close Enough, 1990; The Anna Papers, 1988), will feel right at home with Gilchrist's latest meditation on love, sex, and family. Olivia de Haviland Hand, daughter of Daniel, a wealthy North Carolinian, decides to spend the summer after her freshman year in college with her maternal grandparents, who raised her. (Her mother, a Cherokee from Oklahoma, died in childbirth.) Olivia (Via) goes to Oklahoma and ends up reconnecting with her high school sweetheart, Bobby. When he asks her to marry him, she is forced to examine her feelings about love, sex, marriage, and motherhood. Via's 20-year-old half-sister, Jessie, is in New Orleans awaiting the birth of her first child by her cousin/husband, King, who is himself trying to grow quickly into responsible fatherhood. Via and Jessie's Aunt Helen (Daniel's sister) has left her husband and kids to pursue happiness in Boston with Irish poet Mike, whom she met after the suicide of her sister, Anna, fatally ill with cancer. Helen is trying to reconcile with her kids without giving up her new life, at the same time pressuring her brother Daniel to turn over a new leaf. Daniel, meanwhile, is languishing in Carolina deep in mid-life crisis, drinking the summer away, missing his daughters, ignoring his current lover, Margaret, until eventually he, too, sees the ``light'' of love and the possibility of a different future. Starcarbon is soap at its most elegant. Sex as life force comes through at every turn. Yet the novel's lyricism and Gilchrist's distinctive, flowing voice keeps one engaged throughout, even when the various storylines begin to lag in interest.
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