McCorkle's lightly southern-fried fiction continues to please in her fourth novel--a poignant coming-of-age story set in the early 70's. Katie Burns knows her whole life is going to change when the Rhodes family moves into the brand-new split-level house across the street. For one thing, there is a daughter, Misty, her own age, and Katie has been lonely, spending most of her time alone in her bedroom, playing Helen Keller. The other attraction is Misty's mother, Mo Rhodes, who is lively and eccentric and, possibly, disreputable--while Katie's own mother, Cleva, is a proper Bostonian who carries around family papers like pedigrees and makes it clear that living in the South is not her cup of tea. Katie wonders about the mysteries of her family: how her prim mother ever ended up with her skinny, wisecracking father, Fred; and what scandalous secret lurks in the background of Fred's beautiful, enigmatic niece Angela, who appears occasionally for hushed meetings with her uncle. Katie Finds herself struggling against the virtues extolled by her mother and drawn instead to Angela, to Mo Rhodes, and to ""no-good"" neighbor boy Merle Hucks. But as she grows older and watches tragedy strike Misty's family and then her own, Katie comes to understand some things--especially that the distinction between good and bad is not as absolute as she once believed. There are a couple of too-pat, teen-movie episodes here (notably, a graveyard rape scene), but, overall, McCorkle's writing shines as brightly as it did in Tending to Virginia (1987). Her characters are finely drawn, funny, and right. Katie, the confused non-belle, rings true, and her story is as compelling as a soft southern night.