It is the rich details of living that are paths to transcendence,"" Yarmolinsky suggests, and in this intimate recollection, she shares special moments from her family's unique history. Jane Vonnegut Yarmolinsky and first husband ""Carl"" became parents to four nephews when the boys' parents died suddenly, the father in a freak accident, the mother to cancer. It turned the Barnstable, Mass. family of five into ""a gang of nine""--""It was always someone's birthday""--and altered all their lives in unimagined ways. Jane marveled at the generosity of her own children as the New Jersey contingent moved in, made new friends, and healed themselves slowly. Ned, the oldest, had what Einstein called ""the holy curiosity of inquiry"": there was never time enough after a catastrophe to forestall the next. John kept himself busy on ballfields, but a salutary school composition (""And then I was given a wonderful new family"") marked the beginning of an adult writing career. Cubby made the best adjustment and continues, as an airline pilot, to make secure and happy landings. The baby of the four, who went to childless relatives after the first few weeks, has also grown up and prospered. Paradoxically, the Yarmolinskys' own three children went through somewhat bumpier adolescences--a breakdown, a bout with drugs, probable anorexia. Yarmolinsky, who died shortly after completing this work, clearly found redemption and inner peace among the serial crises and piles of laundry, and her emphasis is on the meaning of it all: dreams and premonitions beforehand, understanding and personal growth through the years. Her expressive, lightly sweetened memoir recaptures the poetry of family life in loving detail.