The achievement in Godwin's first novel lies in the appealing voice of her main character Mattie, who rambles through 20-plus years of her life in a small southern town--from brief courtship through long marriage and eventual separation. Married on impulse as a teenager to Jimmy Lee Turner, Mattie never quite understands why. She feels slighted by her in-laws and abandoned by her mother, who remarries and moves away shortly after Mattie's father dies. (It'll be 20 years before they see each other again.) Mattie's fantasy of a married life with a house full of babies evaporates when she miscarries her first pregnancy and learns she will never have another. She carries on, however, seemingly nonplussed. She's the good wife, even though she's never been thrilled by Jimmy Lee's lovemaking; the good daughter in-law; the good neighbor. Eventually Mattie has a hysterectomy; her in- laws die; she reunites with her mother; then hurricane Dion destroys her mother-in-law's home. This last incident seems to be the catalyst for her separation from Jimmy Lee, though by this point we're not sure why. Mattie's voice is a rather isolated one, her story curiously passive. Unfortunately, the novel suffers from the obvious pitfall of first-person narration: the canvas never opens up. Ultimately, it cries out for dramatic incident to give Mattie a real life.