North Carolina mountain memories of ten-year-old Jess--around whom fantastical relatives spin: Uncle Luden the rake, Uncle Gurton with the never-ending white beard and the unsettling capacity to make himself physically disappear, Uncle Zeno the storyteller, Uncle Runkin who sleeps in his own coffin. And around whom the mysteries of life cluster, largely in the person of Johnson Gibbs, the young hired man through whom Jess discovers friendship, mischief, jealousy, and devastating abandonment when Johnson is killed in W.W.II. Poet Chappell sets the incidents inside a frame of unfussy comedy and then threads through lyricism (""But none of these visions were frightening, they were comforting, and I began to know that death was the Meadow of Vision, where dream was wrested from the marrow or stars""). Some of the stylizing is a touch winsome--""Uncle Gurton's beard had a long and complex history but I will try not to bore us with much of that. Enough to say that it was a fabled beard and that when my father and I heard that Uncle Gurton was coming to visit we were thrilled at the prospect of viewing the legendary fleece."" Yet the majority of the episodes here, open-ended, part-real, part-fantastic, have more sly tact than most southern growing-up albums.