In a poignant present-tense narrative illuminated by bittersweet memories, Sidonie, 16, evokes her family's continuing tension and grief since her mother's death a year ago, describing their valiant efforts to go on with their lives. Dad, a doctor, has become withdrawn, working long hours and leaving Sidonie alone while her sister Bobbi is at college; now that Bobbi is home for the summer, she uses more vigor than tact in taking on tasks that Sidonie has come to think of as her responsibility. Meanwhile, Bobbi has fallen in love with a young Chinese doctor and is preoccupied with her first long-term relationship; and Sidonie becomes close friends with a new neighbor. After an acrimonious introduction and defensive sparring on both sides, she and Kieran are drawn together as each discovers the other's pain. Kieran's absent father, it turns out, is a violent alcoholic; her intensely emotional reaction when Sidonie's family finally begins to communicate more openly and deal effectively with their grief almost precipitates a tragedy at the suspenseful conclusion. Brooks (Paradise Cafe, 1990) writes beautifully; even her minor characters are well realized, while Sidonie and Bobbi's sisterly bickering, their shared grief and guilt, and their underlying affection for each another are exquisitely believable. The setting--small-town Canada, 1959--is authentic down to a celebratory dinner featuring melon balls in ginger ale. A deeply engaging story, to be savored and reread.