The publishers claim distinction for this unusual novel on the basis of its symbolic exploration of love in all its forms- sacred and profane, perverted and innocent. The factors are certainly present- but to this reader the distinction lies in the superb handling of one character, Maidie, nine when the story opens, sixteen at its close. At nine, her life is shattered with her mother's death- and there is her subsequent loneliness in the midst of a turbulent household, her search for both acceptance and affection. In the months that follow, melodrama is made plausible when Maidie, aided by the family servants, wrecks her father's brief, ill-directed romance. Then follow the years in which she grows up and shares in the new world which forms around her. Almost every character in the family, in the Tennessee community at the turn of the century, comes into sharp relief and it is a heartwarming period recreation. The book is perhaps overlong- sometimes repetitive- but frequently moving and almost consistently interesting.