Various private lives in an Oregon seaside village are pried open for inspection in this winning example of Le Guin's best writing--meditative, perceptive, and dead-on in its characterizations. Welcome to Klatsand, a typical American beachside community whose medley of small-town voices combine to form a timeless, penetrating novel in the classic Le Guin tradition. Tales of Klatsanders--the discouraged middle-aged couple who operate the run-clown tourist court outside of town; the aging businessman whose weekend on the beach brings him face to face with his own mortality; the passionately self-reliant professor who brings her fatherless daughter home to grow up sheltered by her past; the aging librarian who indulges in a brief affair with the local bookstore owner--all start small but grow to a powerful crescendo as the town's complex entanglement of small-town loyalties, betrayals, and generations-old resentments comes clear. Le Guin performs best with her female characters--particularly the four generations of Hernes women who, from the late 1800's to the present, scandalize the town with divorce, unwed motherhood, and other forms of unheard-of independence, and whose tale of matriarchal determination occupies the final third of the book. Ending in a defiant retelling of the Persephone myth, the Hernes' story perfectly echoes and enhances the smaller tales that preceded it, making for some deeply satisfying reading--rich, warm, and as easy on the soul as an afternoon on the beach. Another triumph.