Very slowly, a foggy story emerges from the lyrical reflections of Grace--a young woman who returns to her hometown of East Justice, Iowa, to take care of her dying mother and remains there, ``courting'' memories of childhood--in a thin if well- written first novel. Grace, now in her 30s, spends her days near home, quilting, sewing, cooking, baking, feeding the birds, caring for the elderly in the neighborhood--and inviting the past, as if it ``were a shy animal come to feed silently in the yard.'' In rich, chronological vignettes, this is what she remembers: an idyllic girlhood spent mainly in the company of her adored mother and beloved Russian Jewish grandmother, while her father kept long hours at work, selling farm machinery; and then, after her 13th birthday and a gay bas mitzvah, the sudden, frightening disruption of her safe, sane life when her father abruptly moved out of the house and her mother began to crumble from severe depression. Grace and her older brother and sister were all sent away--the brother to live across town with the father and the father's new girlfriend; the sister to stay with neighbors; and Grace all the way to Minnesota, to board with yuppie-ish and preoccupied but remarkably long-suffering young married cousins. The family never lives together again, and gradually it becomes clear that Grace's task now in reliving the past is to forgive her mother for having cut her adrift at a time when she had been ``bound to [her] like a fish forever on the line, running with, then against the current.'' Once she forgives her mother, she's able to sell the house she grew up in. Not much of a plot, to put it mildly. The pleasure is all in the precise, delicately shaded perceptions of Grace as a young girl.