Here, Golden follows up her first novel, A Woman's Place (1986), with an impressionistic sort of saga about a black American family living in Washington, D.C., from the 1920's to the present. The author's abbreviated approach to the usually bloated form proves enlightening--even if her penchant for mythologizing and poetic bluster tend to wear thin. Golden begins at the burial of young Nathaniel Spenser (a coke dealer killed in turf wars), where, ""rain-soaked and sodden, the ground trembled with the desire to relieve and release."" Then she backtracks to tell the story of Narc's grandmother, Naomi Reeves--a refugee from a poor North Carolina tobacco farm, who, by believing in ""dreams and hard work,"" fights her way into D.C.'s black middle class in the days of Ma Rainey and the Scottsboro Boys. Naomi marries Rayford Johnson--just the first of this book's strong, fine black men--and has Esther, a daughter she brings up alone (after Rayford's death) and overprotects, with disastrous effects. Esther rebels by falling in with a married man, Randolph Spenser, who manages to remain faithful to her even while continuing his marriage. Esther's two sons are Logan, a doctor, and Nate--another overprotected child--who loses his life to the blight of drugs before getting a chance to grow up and find himself. It's 80-year-old Naomi who claims the curtain lines: ""I'm proud of my family. . .We each had a destiny and for some of us God and the devil both shaped it."" A carefully crafted, occasionally moving tale--one that might have been even more moving if the author had stopped striving so hard for significance and let the story speak for itself.