The time is approaching when 15-year-old Annie Earle will fly--though to almost everyone except her best friend, Queen Esther, she seems irremediably earthbound. The Rolands seem to be unlucky: Annie Earle has a clubfoot, her brother Brodie is epileptic and mentally retarded, her widowed mother Penelope is a pill-addicted invalid, and Aunt Katherine (a narrow, nasty piece of work) is poised to pounce on their considerable wealth. Annie Earle--a strong, stable character who may be embarrassed but is never angry or depressed over her infirmity--is sometimes ready to leap out of her confined life like one of the butterflies that Brodie chases so assiduously. As example, she has Queen Esther, free-spirited granddaughter of housekeeper Aunt Charlotte. It's ""Queen"" who persuades Annie Earle to buy a conjure bag to fend off Aunt Kat, and who provides encouragement when men begin to come around: Tommy Hickman (ephemeral), Achilles McPherson (a true first love, but a traveling man), and lawyer Jack Cato (a steadier prospect. In the tradition of the Cleavers, Hooks has crafted fine, strong characters struggling to hold a family together and emerging triumphant. His story rides on a deep understanding of southern life and attitudes at the turn of the century, from small-town gentility to a wild logging camp, from the Rolands' comfortably multiracial household to the vicious racism of Aunt Kat and the local rowdies. Complex and outstanding.