A clever and stylish first novel that manages to interweave separate narratives of the Old and New South through the visionary insight of a modern-day South Carolinian in love with Robert E. Lee. Garnet Laney suffers all the traumas one could expect to find in an adolescent girl in 1966--ambivalence toward sex, annoyance toward family, confusion over politics and the advent of adult life--with one remarkable difference: she develops an obsession with Robert E. Lee that eventually elevates into a full-scale love affair. The original impetus is a school project that leads her to discover an obscure family connection with Lee--and that jolts her imagination and transports her to the 19th century, where she learns that she has (somehow) led a prior life in close proximity with the General. The story thereafter proceeds along two parallel lines--one portraying Garnet's struggle to unravel the mystery of her self and her history, the other following the solitary and tragic story of Lee's life and career. The sections dealing with Lee, however, quickly overshadow the latter-day sequences--not only because they tell a livelier tale but because they don't relay on the quasi-mystical (and rather confusing) premise of Garnet's historical bilocation. Harper has attempted to broaden the perspective of the traditional coming-of-age story by setting it within a much larger framework of ancestry and recollection, but the epic scale of this approach seems out of proportion to the experience and aspirations of the narrator. This becomes especially troublesome at story's end, which relies on a blatantly magical climax to resolve the metaphorical and intellectual contradictions that have built up along the way. A fresh and likable start by a writer whose imagination has yet to find its proper boundaries. Although few readers will be able to suspend disbelief far enough to make the story work, most will want to try.