Small-town, small-screen intimacy and humor--as debut novelist McCorkle (cf. The Cheer Leader, above) locks in on an off-the-highway random sample of kin and neighbors, caught up in a chain of circumstance on one hot day in Marshboro, North Carolina. July 7th is the day after Charlie Husky is murdered on his night shift at the Quik Pik convenience store. It's also the 83rd birthday of gloriously greedy Granner Weeks. And it's the day after young Sam Swett--head shaved and drunk as a skunk--is dumped by his hitched ride in Marshboro: Carolina boy Sam, philosophically savaged by the Big Apple, awash with boozy rue and wallowing in weltschmerz (a more appealing case than that of The Cheer Leader), is the second one to see poor dead Charlie. The first is Granner's boy Harold Weeks, ""handsome and rotten to the core,"" who's been doggedly sousing-up in Quik Pik's back room ever since he caught wife Juanita, mother of their two kids, with a shrimpy grocery store owner. And among the others caught up in the July 7th interplay are: black Fannie McNair, who works for erratically chummy/snobbish Mrs. Foster in a decaying boarding-house and centers her dreams on her little grandson; Granner's great-niece Corky Revels, who works at the Coffee Shop and has bad dreams; Granner's daughter, plain Kate, who always wanted to be ""in high cotton""; and Kate's husband Ernie Stubbs, who's making money hand over fist, although he came from the wrong side of the tracks and ""his Mama died poor as a churchmouse."" Throughout a day of tragedy and odd celebrations, adults are pricked by old guilts, sorrows, and resentments, trying to cope with everyday extraordinary muddles. Kate hammers away at being liked; Fannie confronts the memory--and then the actuality--of son Tommy, who despises her for an Aunt Jemima; boiling Harold chums out the wrong murder suspect for not-too-swift cop Bob. And while Granner's awful birthday party features a snappy crossfire of sniping, a hilarious-to-deadly affair at the fatuous Fosters ends with a terrible revelation--underscoring what is pointed throughout: the humble, hopeful aspirations beneath the craziest, most destructive human relationships. In sum: modestly effective regional fiction in the Southern tradition--often funny, acute, and touching.