Edith Jackson is less self-aware than her friend Phyllisia Cathy of The Friends (1973), but no less self-occupied--and just as intense. Having slaved and sacrificed to keep her three orphaned sisters together, and helpless now as they leave, one by one, on their own, Edith feels fiercely resentful toward almost everyone, including the sisters. And throughout this heavy, slackly structured novel she resists the wily interest of an older woman who would make her study and aim to be someone who ""counts""; only after she becomes pregnant by the woman's obviously no-good nephew James does a morning's wait in a welfare line persuade Edith to get an abortion and accept Mrs. Bates' support. At large in Harlem for a while, Edith has an encounter with old friend Phyllisia and her sister Ruby; disappointingly, this is one of the blurriest scenes in the book. But elsewhere, despite Edith's stubborn refusal to get herself together (a lack of direction that is sadly reflected in the plot), the various confrontations of Edith's eighteenth year do stand out distinctly--if only because of the seething hostility with which she views just about everyone except the truly despicable James.