A bright, absorbing first novel, selected to premier the new Delta Fiction line, probes the soul of one of those complicated modern families--a cluster of wives, ex-wives, step-mothers, half-sisters, etc. The man responsible for this tangle of relationships is powerful and fickle real-estate developer Ben Day--an ironic touch, since the women in his life are all stargazers with an affinity for the night sky. But Ben has an ""aura of energy,"" a smile as ""quick as fire,"" and he attracts women with all the force of gravity. First, there is Penny, a 19-year-old college dropout who has big plans to travel, see the world, and try everything. But almost before she knows what's hit her, she finds herself married to Ben, settled on Cape Cod, and the mother of two small children. Next, when Ben tires of Penny, there is Diane, who marries him, moves in, and tries to win over her wounded and surly stepchildren. Eventually (inevitably), Diane, too, is traded in for a newer, younger model, and the void that Ben's departure makes--the black hole--threatens to swallow the whole family until they learn slowly and painfully how to reposition themselves. Barrett does a fine job here. Her prose style is extraordinarily confident for a first-novelist and she's not afraid to use plot--there's enough love and heartbreak and human foible in this book to keep us hooked. The star imagery, which could have been gimmicky, works well. As Penny, Diane, and their daughters gaze at the night sky, we get the message: families are like lucid stars. We may navigate by them and think we know them, but the truth is that they hold mysteries we're only beginning to solve. A stellar debut.