A quiet, insidiously moving exploration of the undercurrent of sadness which shapes the lives of those who do not quite ""belong."" Narrator Thomas Burton, a grandfather moved to Maine from Montana, away from the memory of his ""beautiful unhappy mother,"" documents the history of Amy, adopted as a baby by good, careful parents, now middle-aged, comfortably divorced from her husband, and well off, ""familiar with the interior fragrance 'of Packards and station wagons whose doors closed With authority."" Yet unaccountably Amy is ""at the mercy of a small voice who asked, 'Who am I?'"" After the death of her adoptive parents, Amy opens the envelope which will disclose her parentage--and her kinship to Burton. Burton now reviews with affection and some awe his-and Amy's--family: beautiful mother Beth, married briefly to ""no good"" Ben who fathered Burton. He relives through a child's eyes the fleeting visits of Ben--handsome, expansive, caught up in a drummer's big dream, thin enough for a child to penetrate. Burton remembers his mother's encroaching alcoholism and the ""frightening rectitude"" of his stepfather. When Amy appeals for the family's recognition, ancient aunts send Burton angry and dismissive letters in response, and Burton accepts their verdicts until . . . in tears, he hears ""my sister speak my name."" Within the institution of Family--its clusterings, its warming securities, its chilling exclusions--a still, scenic journey to some home truths.