An ingratiating first novel that centers on the growth of a young woman whose mores and judgments were shaped within the solidly Irish-Catholic blue-collar neighborhood of Jackson Heights (20 minutes to Manhattan by subway). The story of Delia Mary Delaney, nÇe Rooney--set in the early 60's and before--pops and hums with a multitude of depth-sounding recognitions so acute in sound and sight that the reader is home in the Heights after a few pages. When 19-year-old Delia became pregnant by huge, handsome Maurice Delaney--who was going to marry her anyway--Mae Rooney had to tell her husband Denis, Delia's volatile father. Denis kicked her and kicked her--after all, she'd disgraced them--but Denis (one of 12 children of a wild woman in Ireland) died just before Delia's baby Maureen was born. Maurice, now a cop, is a drinker like Denis, but he's a good man. There are flashbacks to the wedding (tacky, loving, hilarious), the first three months of a screaming baby--the frenzy and aching love, devotions at the altar of housework--and, in the apartment downstairs, there's also Mae, that ``Queen of Saints,'' devoted mother and grandmother, crazily prejudiced, loudmouthed, ever-scrubbing, ever-cooking, ever-present tyrant. Brothers (both fallen away from early promise), friends, neighbors come into focus, along with disastrous trips away--cold and desertion in Manhattan; a beer-soaked Maurice, and anger at the beach. It is a tragedy as close as her heart that dooms, and then saves, Delia for a new start in one day of shocking laughter and joy. A remarkable evocation of a tight little island peopled by pre-Vatican II Irish and a younger generation, unlike their mothers, brogue-less, but ``not-quite ready to move on.'' From the fly-specked windows of the Shamrock Bar, in the ``damp air under the el,'' to the cemetery opposite Arthur's Discounts--it's real and warms the heart.