In a dream-like, death-haunted first novel, a series of brief, lyrical first-person narratives evokes the summer of 1980 in Atlanta: teenaged children of three white families struggle with sudden grief at home while their lives are also intertwined with public tragedy--the ongoing disappearance and murder of black children. Three white girls swimming in the river find a black child's body. Gus (Augusta) has seen death before: her boyfriend was struck and killed by lightning. Robbie Lynn's parents will soon die in a car accident (a scene that replays again and again as her six-year- old brother keeps demanding that she tell how it happened). Noreen's father is about to abandon the family; she will get religion while her brother Ray (who loves Robbie Lynn) will become obsessed with tracking down their father. Meanwhile, Gus, Noreen, and Ray have summer restaurant jobs alongside Elijah and Buddy- -close friends of the boy found in the river. When Buddy disappears, Elijah (with some reason) blames Ray. Joe, a Vietnam vet and surrogate-father figure for Ray, comes to visit and joins the searches (for Ray's father and for bodies). The novel's pieces are woven together not just by intertwining lives but by loss, isolation, and the constant imagery of water that's connected both with death and with healing. Two narrative voices speak from beyond the grave; the lost children are heard calling for their mommas; the voices of the living are just as ghostly. Wieland's poetic sensibility creates a mysterious, evocative tapestry--for an unusual and impressive debut.