Garfield (The Life of a Real Girl, 1986) would have us believe that modern America is aswarm with close-knit cousins who have remained dear friends for life. She herself is close to what seems like dozens of cousins, while many of the over 300 men and women whose stories pepper this slack book consider at least one cousin to rank among their best of friends. Close kinship ties, Garfield says, are partly a result of shared genes, which tend to make for shared interests, talents, values, and all the attributes we esteem in friendships. Relationships between cousins are also less fraught with jealousy and the other emotional hangups that prevail among siblings. Garfield explores sexual attraction between cousins: There seems to be a lot of doctor ""play"" among young cousins of opposite sex, and even some intercourse. Marriage between cousins is still going on, although it is illegal in about half the states. First-cousin marriage, Garfield reports, was commonplace in Victorian England. The Darwins, Huxleys, and Wedgewoods, for instance, were genetically meshed by numerous matches between cousins. Today's Americans--faced with far-flung families and a low birthrate--are beginning to mount special family reunions to strengthen kinship ties and to introduce the latest generation to their cousins. These young people tend to click immediately with one another; Garfield implies that they are forging the close ties so common in their parents' and grandparents' generations. Novel, since little has been written before on the subject; but Garfield's rambling, anecdote-crammed work certainly isn't definitive.