An increasingly absorbing story of ""a family in pieces, pulling itself back together out of one woman's stubborn determination,"" by the author of the bestselling Bastard Out of Carolina (1992), a National Book Award--finalist. In plain impassioned prose enlivened by superbly salty dialogue, Allison gradually discloses the inner lives and secret histories of four bewildered, determined women who eventually come to understand themselves by grappling with the complicated permutations of their mingled fear, hatred, and love of and for their families, husbands, lovers, and one another. Their story begins when Delia Byrd, a rock-and-roll singer whose partner has died in a motorcycle accident, takes their preadolescent daughter Cissy with her across the country on an impulsive mission to reclaim the two other daughters Delia had abandoned a decade earlier when she fled their abusive father, who had all but killed her. The pair's destination is Cavro, Georgia, a closemouthed backwater where Delia, remembered as ""that bitch [who] ran off and left her babies,"" must painstakingly reconnect with her sin--helping her cancer-stricken husband to die, and submissively biding her time as her girls grow into variously troubled and empowered women. Cissy's older half-sister Amanda is a religious zealot finally softened by her acquaintance with the consolations of ""sin."" The younger, Dede, works through her ""wildness"" and anger to the possibility of a loving relationship. And Cissy finds in her obsessive explorations of a nearby cave a passageway ""into her dream self"" and the strength to seize her future. All comes together with Delia's stunning revelation of the ""stolen world"" of her childhood--a world that she and hers, through sheer force of will, essentially recover. Allison's breakaway intensity and warm identification with her characters carry this long book triumphantly over its repetitions and overemphases, producing an altogether wonderful second novel and, for its author, a giant step forward.