From the author of the well-received The Bean Trees (1987), 12 far-reaching and mostly affecting stories that seem wise in the ways of many places--from Kentucky to Arizona to the island of St. Lucia. Kingsolver's voice has remarkable range but seems truest when it's slightly offbeat, in stories full of legend, black magic, or just plain rumor. Great-Mam--an old Cherokee woman in the title story--hands over the whole weight of the world to her great-granddaughter Gloria, and the child understands that it's a burden she will cherish. In "Jump-Up Day," Jericha, the daughter of an English doctor, meets a medicine man on the Caribbean island where rite's living and learns new lessons about healing. And Georgeann, in "Rose-Johnny," risks disgrace to befriend a strange woman who's always been shunned by others in their rural community. A couple of the pieces here--"Blueprints," "Bereaved Apartments"--seem to be striving for some level of meaning that they never quite reach. And the Kentucky stories that seek to juxtapose modern day life with old-time values would be wonderful if they didn't feel uncomfortably like clones of Bobbie Ann Mason's writing. But what's memorable here is the strength--and variety--of Kingsolver's own style. Vicki, the Hispanic union organizer in "Why I am a Danger to the Public," comes to life as vividly and sympathetically as the Waspy, adulterous doctor's wife who narrates "Stone Dreams." Kingsolver's stories are so sharply defined and deftly constructed that their lackluster endings come as a disappointment--they don't support all the talent that the stories contain. No crescendos here, then, but, still, a lovely repertoire.