A self-contained young woman in a small western town awakens to life through a lesbian affair: an appealing first novel told with beguiling honesty and humor. Pat Lloyd is 34 by the time seductive ``lady trucker'' Alma Rose passes through dot-on-the-map Kilgore, where Pat works in one of the only two surviving businesses: her father's store. Pat was always considered ``odd''--smart, quiet, and unaccountably content to be alone reading, drawing, daydreaming, and preferring the company of her Border collies. Years earlier she was college-bound but, after her mother's death, stayed in town to care for her father (to the dismay of the guidance counselor, who directed students to higher education or employment like someone at the ``sorting gate at the stockyards''). While the reader clearly feels the almost unbearable limitations of this life--the obligations, the complete absence not just of love and sex but of any sort of friendship or intimacy--Pat's voice is free of self-pity, filled instead with real affection for the people and world around her. Once Alma Rose appears, though, Pat learns how much she's been missing. Alas, free spirit Alma doesn't stay long. Pat, in a tailspin, comes up with a rather spectacular (and not entirely credible) plan to lure her back, in the process coming out to the town and becoming a more open and spirited person while staying true to her own quiet, steady self. Life-affirming without sentimentality; in spite of the occasional character too good to be real, the portrayal of love and growth rings absolutely true.