Henry Starbuck Flynn, son of a cop, grows up during the Thirties in South Hadley, Massachusetts, next door to the Kokoriss family. He mildly (for Henry, or ""Herky"" to his friends, is mild in everything) dates the three oldest Kokoriss sisters, both before he's drafted for the Navy in 1942 and after his discharge from the South Pacific in 1945. But it's the youngest Kokoriss girl, Columbine, 13, who throws him. Precociously poised, affected, scheming, alive to a degree almost subversive in the blue-collar precincts of her society, Columbine calls Henry ""Starbuck"" (thus overrating him as much as ""Herky"" underrates him) and develops him into a lover-figure. Henry certainly savors her appreciation, but doesn't act on it (she is still 13, after all)--and his decent reticence seems to drive the girl into wildness: sex with older men and a scandal that even implicates the blameless Henry. So Henry then spends the rest of a mild and frustrated life always haunted by her dash, her vivacity. Kennedy (My Father's Orchard; Good Night, Jupiter) is able to fasten in Forties small-town life expertly; most especially he makes Columbine a considerably bewitching nymphet. But Kennedy also, unfortunately, all too thoroughly and faithfully captures Henry's slow, poky, waiting-game-that-comes-to-nothing: the novel is similarly slow and poky, a consciously ""small"" book that nevertheless goes on at great, attenuated length. An endearing yet un-compelling story, then, that readers will have to goose along with an extra energizing measure of good-will and sympathy.