In a first novel from a well-known storyteller, a teen-ager finds some hard truths in a packet of old letters. Raised by his reticent grandmother, ""Grom,"" Willie has only overheard a few snippets about his parents: that his father, Bill, deserted his family and later died; that Kate, his mother, was killed in a car accident. When Groin dies, Willie rinds an 18-year-old packet of letters from his father to his mother that launches him into a brutal, emotional night of revelations. His father did not desert, but went to Kentucky; he writes tenderly and articulately of his loneliness, the people he meets, and his joy in woodworking. Obviously troubled, he finally--in a pain-filled confession--tells Kate that he's gay. The letters show that Bill never knew he had a son and that Kate kept writing but lied about her life until its tragic end. Once over his fury and horror, Willie realizes that even though his family history is wrapped in a tissue of lies, Grom and his parents were motivated by love, not malice. He can forgive Kate and Groin, bast is less willing to accept his father. Feeling abandoned, unwilling to risk being left again, he tries to break with his girlfriend, Libby--a wise, stubbornly loyal character whose strength and vitality shine in a relatively minor role. Though he distances the issue of a homosexual parent by separating Bill from Willie in both place and time here, Shannon skillfully gives his characters unique voices while adding each letter like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. Following Willie from one revelation to the next will keep readers on the edges of their seats.