Marguerite Daigle, the southern heroine of this fourth novel by Sharp (Crows over a Wheatfield), is a modern-day Scarlett O'Hara. But her dramatic antics—she once proposed to a policeman after crashing into the back of his car—don't play to her advantage in the bleak Upstate New York prison town where she now lives with her two daughters. While 8-year-old Penny delights in her mother's capers, Mahalia, 15, is ashamed. Family unity is strained when Marguerite starts drinking and Mahalia consoles herself with a sometimes dangerous right-to-lifer.
Told through Penny's eyes, this beautifully written story, full of wry observations about human nature and the abortion debate, will resonate with all those who have ever laughed or cried at their own family's absurdities. (Hyperion, $23.95)