A series of bittersweet stories about the loves and marriages in three generations of a Sheffield family--framed by the reminiscences of Jess, the family's youngest member--adds up to a fine novel. Bridle came from a large, Catholic, working-class family; when Jack secretly married her, her father turned her out on the street in her nightgown, and his father (a ""deeply religious"" Protestant headmaster) refused to take them in. Fifty years later Jack is bowed down by her recent death. The other grandmother--""The Buffer Girl""--polishes knives (and pays for that early job with life-long lung trouble); like Cinderella, she has a triumphant evening at a ball, but when the boss's son realizes who she is, he cuts her; she resigns herself to marrying the boy next door. In each generation there is love rewarded and love betrayed; the contrasts and parallels enrich the meaning of all. The love between parent and child is a second strong theme, most eloquent in the central story of Danny, Jess's older brother. Danny is born with a lingering illness that kills him at 17; his grieving parents are left with the task of trying belatedly to establish emotional bonds with their two younger children. Vividly evocative of time and place, a poignant portrait of a dozen individuals whose joys and trials are universal.