In a memoir whose principal appeal lies in its detailed recapturing of a bygone place and era, best-selling historical novelist De Blasis (A Season of Swans, 1989, etc.) describes growing up on her family's ranch in the high desert of Southern California. Founded by De Blasis's grandparents in the 1920's, the farm and horse ranch, about a hundred miles from LA., later received paying guests such as J.B. Priestley, Henry Fonda, and Herman Mankiewicz. The grandmother ran her dining room as artistic salon. De Blasis describes, in no particular order, the children's adventures, the omnipresent natural world, the extended family, the help, the Catholic school, the trips to Europe, the sense of independence that her upbringing fostered and how she became a writer. This rambling remembrance tends toward the self-congratulatory. De Blasis will not eat peaches from trees that grow in graveyards, calls her childhood invention of an Indian character ""prophetic,"" and regrets that her grandmother, a published memoirist, tried to compete with her as a novelist: ""I had not used any of her publishing connections when I started out...but I did ask my agent to read Grandma's manuscript."" Her prose quickens when she brings her family and a beloved landscape to life. Her brother died young, his passing part of a chronicle of loss that includes vanishing wildlife and open space as the ranch, like the rest of Southern California, became residential subdivision. We could, however, have been spared the fates of favorite pets. Early on, De Blasis describes finding an Indian artifact at an archaeological dig on the ranch. ""Nothing has ever made me feel the continuity of the best in human kind as keenly as I did when I held that crystal drill in my hand--small, exquisite, shaped equally for beauty and for use."" With more precise editing and shaping, her memoir could have better realized her theme of moving backward in time.