Miss Welty's South, the hill country of Northeast Mississippi, is once again like its catalpa trees in full bloom. On the first page, the marvelous descriptive power which carries so much of her writing makes itself felt--"Then a house appeared on its ridge, like an old man's silver watch pulled once more out of its pocket." This is her first book in some fifteen years; a writer of short stories and shorter novels, this is her first attempt to transpose the minor work of art into a major achievement and one of its losing battles may well be its length, testing the patience of those outside the cult. Here and there, during this mighty get-together, the reunion of a family on the 90th birthday (she says 100th) of Granny Vaughn, some of it runs to grass. It's the occasion when Granny expects to "see all the great-great-grandchildren they care to show me" along with her clutch of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Granny's mind sometimes slips, and well through this memorable day she's asking for her presents; they're all around her--a prayer plant or a new apron or a sodabox full of sage. The day is also remarkable in that after two years, one of the great-grandchildren, Jack, is being released from the pen--to join them and his wife and his baby (although for a time it seems he might lose them both to a lurching car--an episode which with its retrieval is one of the many comic scenes). He's not the kind to give up; nor is his wife Gloria (who grew up an orphan never knowing who was her father) nor is the former schoolteacher of Banner who attempted to block their marriage. She was the most embattled of them all. . . . Miss Welty once defined the novel as "reflections and visions of all life we know compounded through art." Along with her blood knowledge of the South which has earned those many comparisons with Faulkner, there is her cosmic vision--part innocence, part forgiveness ("the besetting sin" in this house), part comedy, an ever-flowing affection for all that walks and crawls and creeps, and in conjunction with the homemade pleasures, the more mysterious penultimates. They're all here.