This novel set in the small-town South dangles a lot of interesting possibilities but disappoints on half of these. Leland is returning home to Mississippi after more than 35 years living in big cities, and her gay, illegitimate son, Toby, is accompanying her. Most of the action takes place at a dinner party given by her close friend, Melanie, and Melanie's husband, Baker. Leland appears to be ill, but Melanie and Baker wear their pain openly; their teenage daughter slit her wrists in the bathtub, and they have never completely recovered. The other members of their high school gang are also in attendance, each with their own quirks: Overweight Sissy loves opera and expensive clothing; Jane Scott moved home eight years earlier from San Francisco and inexplicably finds herself still there, making jam and sleeping with other people's husbands, including ex-football star Dog, who also is coming to dinner with his wife, Totty. A closeted gay man named Carroll and Melanie and Baker's 12-year-old son Roy--an odd boy who wears a cape and carries his pet rat wrapped around his neck--will round out the group, along with a last-minute guest who comes to fix the sink and ends up with an invite. Each has a well- drawn personality with believable human tics, and Lowry (Crossed Over, 1992) does a capable job of delineating them. There are plenty of funny lines, like this one about Jane Scott: ``Sometimes she thought she lived her entire life to provide country songwriters with material.'' However, all of this southern eccentricity has a familiar feel to it, especially since the pay- off after the boozy reunion is less than shocking--despite Lowry's bald-faced attempts to titillate with references to masturbation and the like. A good read that provides diverting company but little closure.