A nine-year-old girl survives a succession of family tragedies--in an uneven first novel by Corey, born and raised in New Brunswick, Canada. Consider what little Laura experiences over the course of a year in her home in rural Canada. The husband of Sister slaps his wife around in the yard and later terrorizes the household with a gun before being disarmed by Daddy. Eddie, Laura's 15-year-old brother, returns from reform school; he's already an alcoholic, just like Daddy. Soon his drunk driving leads to a fatal crash. His death devastates Mama, who is twice institutionalized in the asylum. Meanwhile, the mother of Laura's best friend Marilyn wastes away and dies; another friend, Audrey, commits incest with her brother (``I do it with Dino all the time''); and Laura is partially responsible for the near-death by drowning of younger brother Bucky. None of this is what happens to the families Laura sees on television, but she gamely tries to say things ``that will maybe make us pretend that everything in our family is okay.'' She prays a lot to Jesus. She deftly reverses roles, calming her mother with a hand to the brow, consoling her Daddy while downplaying her own needs. Her tenth birthday is happy enough that this diminutive Job can say, ``It's a good thing to finally be together.'' Freshness of language and observation mark Corey as a promising newcomer, but she's hobbled herself here by overdoing the disasters and having Laura tell us about them in the historic present--not a fruitful tense for the limited consciousness of a nine-year-old.