Growing up in Appalachia: a seemingly autobiographical first novel that takes its poet-to-be narrator, Robert Wells, from age 12, when his parents' stormy marriage concludes, to age 17, when he leaves tiny Newfound Creek, Tennessee, to work his way through Kentucky's Berea College. Grandpa Smith--with whom Robert, his mother, and his brother and sister live--is one of several sharecroppers on Grandpa Wells' large holding Dad is a quirky ne'erdo-well who finally gets a good job; Mom, meanwhile, gets her high-school diploma and a job of her own, but can't forgive her in-laws for their earlier contempt. The children, however, manage to have relatively happy years growing up, while being nurtured and enriched by both sides of the family. Miller brings a poet's voice and knowing eye to his descriptions, blending a strong sense of place with glimpses of Rohett's rich inner life: ""And always there was a cold place inside me, like frost on the shaded north side of the barn roof--a cold place that never melted, no matter how bright the day."" The action here is episodic, the characters sharply rather than deeply drawn--like revealing candid photos by a gifted photographer. Evocative; well written; quietly appealing.