Quirky and evocative sketches that capture the human spirit and the passing of a simpler and more genteel era. Drawing upon the people and places around her, White (Mama Makes Up Her Mind, not reviewed), a first-grade teacher and NPR commentator, creates a picture of American life, from portraits of family members to landscapes as diverse as northern Vermont and the Florida Everglades. Set primarily in the South, these mostly brief essays explore the passage of time and our attitudes and beliefs about the past. The voice is that of the native child, comfortable with the pace and aware of the region's history and lifestyle. In vignettes populated by eccentric characters and recounting zany situations, the reader encounters a former Rose Queen who daily relives her high school graduation while picking roses from municipal parks; a newly rich cousin intent on reuniting for his new mansion a set of Chippendale chairs that has been spread out among many family members; and an old southern woman who allows her once magnificent home to deteriorate around her and the house's eventual restoration to its former glory. These stories are written with respect and affection, and White never falls into the trap of turning her unusual characters into caricatures. The title sketch, the last in the book, is one of the more self-consciously philosophical in the collection, and seems to belong to another group of stories, until it becomes clear that herein lies the point of the book: Life is just a one-night stay in a modest motel, but the ice is free, a breeze ripples the water of the pool, and peaceful dreams are dreamt there. Focusing on the brevity of life, White reminds her readers that every moment has its unique value.