The affecting memoir of a born storyteller. Written with novelistic zest and peopled with strong, well-delineated characters, Bawden (The Real Plato Jones, 1993, etc.) ably demonstrates the origins, orientation, and latitudes of her craft--""a solitary occupation."" Bawden's father, a merchant seaman, was away for most of her childhood. She lived with seven different families as an evacuee during WW II; this and her summer job as a temporary letter carrier drew her into the lives of many. A keen observer always, no experience or sensation was wasted; readers will find the roots of such exceptional novels as Carrie's War in these years. The many passages Bawden devotes to her family are memorable: Those involving the struggles of her oldest son Nikki, a schizophrenic who committed suicide, powerfully resonate. Bawden's observations--restrained, expressive, often moving--will be best appreciated by those who share her love for the written word and by readers still not sated by her many fine books.