Gritty detail aside, this lyrical tale of an abused child's survival and empowerment is more fable than yet another story of a dysfunctional family facing down its demons. Set in her native Florida, a place of sandy scrub and rundown motor-courts, Fowler's tale (River of Hidden Dreams, 1994, etc.) offers a child, Avocet Abigail Jackson (Bird for short), as the chronicler of one redneck family's misery and mayhem. Glory Marie, the mother, gave Bird and her older sister, Phoebe, birds' names because birds could ``fly above'' the debris in their lives. And the girls will need to do a lot of metaphorical flying if they are to survive their increasingly violent childhood. Bird and her dirt- poor family live in an orange grove near the small store her parents run. Billy, the father, is suicidal and prone to drunken rages in which he beats his children and fights with his wife. But the family's troubles multiply when Glory Marie buys a car of her own and spends time away from home. Mad with jealousy, Billy pays someone to beat up Glory Marie, and then--horrified by what he's done--he disappears, only to be found a few days' later, a suicide. Mother and daughters head for Tampa, where Glory Marie finds work and a home for the family at the Travelers Motel. Phoebe does well at school, but Bird doesn't--she takes to staying home instead, befriending Miss Zora, a mysterious black woman who lives in one of the motel cabins. It's Miss Zora, a healer and a wise woman, who saves them all when the grieving Glory Marie starts drinking heavily and badly beats Bird. Under Miss Zora's wing (as it were), the two girls can fly away to safety while their mother heals. A vividly modern if schematic fairy tale with the usual goodies and baddies appropriately updated.