This finely written sequel to McCaig's popular Nop's Trials (1984) follows Penny Burkeholder and her unique Border Collie, Nop's offering, Hope. Fans of Nop will find him again, this time growing old with wisdom. McCaig takes us into the beautifully realized psyche of Penny as she comes to terms with a deep tragedy. After Penny's husband and daughter are killed in a truck accident, she leaves her rural home and takes to the road. Her parents, Beverly and Lewis, are left behind and hurt. Throughout, McCaig's descriptions are starkly evocative: ``The tamales were good but they were greasy and Penny was dabbing her lips with a paper napkin when they drove into the barnyard; there wasn't much to it; barn, corral, couple pickups, gas tank, tiny trailer and a cowboy chasing a sheep and never catching it.'' Ironically, Hope is never as fully realized a character as McCaig's humans, though he does provide comfort and inspiration for Penny, sometimes in the form of spoken words. Somehow, Hope's talking is convincing and never seems like a gimmick. When Penny throws in her lot with Ransome Barlow, ``a gangly fellow...skin tanned so dark it was sun dried,'' she starts to imagine Hope a winner in the sheepdog trials. Soon he begins winning. Ransome is in love with Penny, but it takes her a while to realize his devotion. Only when Hope rebels and will no longer perform as a winner is Penny able to grieve for her daughter and husband; only then can she give up the road to find her way back to human connections. McCaig is a marvelous writer. His landscapes, whether of the Mississippi Delta, the truck stops along the highway, the life of the American West, or the human heart, are vivid and true.