A marvelously affective, warm, and searching second novel from Haynes, author of the delightful coming-of-age story Right By My Side (1993). Haynes sounds home truths in his story of a middle-aged African-American couple's gutsy, if all-thumbs, attempt to stabilize in the choppy seas of married love and parenting, rocked by the recurring wash of guilt and baffled anger at their parents, alive and dead. Al and Paula Johnson live with their 11-year-old twin sons in River Ridge, Missouri, a small, inconspicuously declining, almost all-black town. Al (not one to analyze his motives) is now running for mayor, a position once held by his late father, a cold and ungiving man. Like Al, Paula was raised in comfortable circumstances by an undemonstrative parent: her widowed mother, Helen, a ``lady,'' who had insisted on the best schools, the right clubs. Paula still feels guilty that she didn't visit Helen when she was dying of cancer. Entering the Johnsons' lives is Paul's mother, fierce, insulting, impossible Miss Kezee, brought back from risky solitude in St. Paul by Paula, who has a strange compulsion to be responsible for ``somebody else's Mama.'' Miss Kezee's scary, semicomical furies and flights--she's determined to return to St. Paul--drive Paula to desperation and thoughts of nursing homes, but she eventually finds herself listening and caring. Miss Kezee, regaining health and sense, talks about her mama's life of backbreaking labor; about Helen, a strong woman she liked; about her men, one loathed, one loved. Meanwhile, Al and Paula spar, wanting one another but muddled, torn between their parents' lives and their parents' dreams. Interior monologues alternate with dialogue that sings off the page in this engrossing, endearing reach to the front line of middle age--where ``soon there'll be no one left to tell us it'll be O.K.''