What's the matter, girl?"" ask Anna's relatives, as she sits on the porch steps for a straight week, waiting for the return of her beloved uncle Ari. Ari left his rural Canadian home for World War II four years ago, when Anna was nine. Now the war's been over for a year and Ari is just coming home. The extended family assembles, cooks, bustles, whispers. . . but something isn't right. Readers will guess--before Anna is willing to--that Ari will not be the same. He arrives shuffling, recognizing no one, delivered by a man in white. ""Some come back dead. His mind came back dead,"" is how one uncle puts it. By the end of the novel Anna hasn't come to terms with Ari's condition, but in their common grief she has come to sympathize with other family members and to shed the self-centered intolerance that marked her possessive feeling for Ari. Neither Anna's memories of her charming uncle, who called her Fairy Princess, nor the letters he writes her from the war, unburdening himself as if she weren't a little girl, project a clear or sympathetic picture of Ari. But the story of Anna's wait is charged with her own subjective intensity and textured with the comings and going of the family members, as they are perceived on the edge of consciousness by a fiercely self-preoccupied 13-year-old.