A fragment of a childhood which has its impetus in heartbreak but is framed by a valley in the Virginia hills where the countryside and its ""cantata of small constant sound"" casts a soft spell. And for Tucker English, almost 11, this valley is a private, inviolate world, identified with the legendary bravery of his Civil War grandfather and an unreconstructed pride- quickened by the abiding anger of his grandmother and the bravado of remembered deed. But as the summer gives way to the heavy somnolence of August, Tucker is a silent witness to the uneasiness at home, to the innuendo of whispered conversations and sudden silences about the ""Secret Thing"",- his father's relations with the red-headed sister of half-crazy Staples Milroy down the road. His grandmother's abrupt departure for St. Louis, the angry exchange between his parents, and the tragedy of his mother's decision to leave the farm- and his father- this completes the circle of disenchantment to despair and provokes a final act of self-mutilation.... The innocence, and impotence, of the young as it counters an inexorable indignation- and finality- in the adult world, this marks a tragic terminus in a boy's life with tenderness and infinite sensitivity.... A less violent book than Six Angels At My Back, for a possibly wider audience.