An author with a solid reputation for accessible fiction with serious themes writes about the conflict between independence and the interdependence of an extended Southern Appalachian family. Lacey, 12, returns to North Carolina after a ten-year absence begun when her unwed mother, Campbell, left in desperation because of Grandmom's persistent efforts to get custody of Lacey. Campbell has had a series of live-in friends; latest is David, a blacksmith who has brought them here so that he can take a job at the Mountain Craft School. David, Iranian born and with a tragic past, is vibrantly warm, full of laughter and caring that knit the three into a loving family; it seems possible that his tact may help to thaw the icy power struggle between Campbell and her overbearing mother. On her own, Lacey begins to establish an uneasy friendship with her cousin, Tam. Ironically, the accidental death of David the peacemaker leaves Lacey to fill that role; as her first sharp grief mellows, Lacey, emulating David, helps Campbell and Grandmom give up their taunts and reclaim their affection for one another. These characters live; the drama they enact is subtle, without clichÃ‰, and full of poignant vignettes, from Lacey's first encounter with her biological father (she decides to accept him as a friend) to the bitter name-calling of Grandmom, who resents Campbell's use of her middle name and retaliates by referring to her as different flavors of soup--perhaps a veiled reference to the deplored promiscuity of her early years. David's loss is heart-wrenching, yet vital to the theme of reconciliation springing from the hearts and actions of those most deeply concerned. A fine book to be savored alone or shared aloud.