Flames of passion and rebellion confront the darkness of intolerance in Alabama, with many a macabre twist--in Childress's latest southern-fried coming-of-age tale (V for Victor, 1984; Tender, 1990, etc.). The quiet life is over for orphaned 12-year-old Peejoe Bullis and his brother Wiley, both living with their grandmother, when lovely Aunt Lucille stops to visit in 1965--on her way to Hollywood after ending an oppressive marriage by giving her spouse D-Con in his coffee. An hour later, she leaves six kids behind and drives off with hubbie's head in a sealed Tupperware bowl (after first taking him out to show everyone); shortly thereafter, Peejoe and Wiley are taken to nearby Industry to live with Lucille's brother- -Uncle Dove, an unassuming undertaker--at the moment when civil rights becomes a burning issue in the town. The point of contention is a new whites-only municipal pool, at which demonstrations are held after a black boy is killed during a scuffle with deputies. Peejoe's terrified face is photographed during a night ambush of demonstrators by rednecks, later appearing on the cover of Life; and when fair-minded Dove also sides with the victims, his family and business quickly fall apart. Meanwhile, Aunt Lucille finds instant fame herself, falling into a promising role in The Beverly Hillbillies--until the Tupperware secret spills out at a party and she's forced to hotfoot it from Hollywood. Arrested with the head in her hands, she returns to Alabama for trial and is convicted, but a lusty judge lets her go--just in time for Dove's funeral home to be burned and his black assistant lynched. Threading a thin line between bizarre comedy and ugly southern reality, this is a deftly balanced tale that unravels in the end- -when the fantastic and tragic elements clash in a finale both brutal and banal.