Picks and Pans Review: Seek the Living

updated 01/24/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/24/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

By Ashley Warlick

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Warlick is at the top of her game in this lush tale of a woman trying to hang on to what she has while struggling to get what she wants—family harmony and a baby of her own. Archivist Joan Mackie adores the men in her life, who include her father, brother Denny, husband Marshall and childhood friend Lewis, but she's way too smart to harbor illusions about them. "I know how generous men are about the giving and receiving of pain, which is to say generous," she says early on, "and women seem to be their favorite solace." Brother Denny, a cemetery caretaker, is on the outs with their father, so when he's beaten up by an unidentified posse, Dad sends Joan to "straighten him out." Instead she, Lewis and Marshall are drawn into Denny's quest to discover the truth about a mysterious cache of human bones. Warlick's examination of right and wrong, love, loyalty and the nature of allegiances forged in the crucible of shared childhoods is beautifully rendered. By the story's end, Joan realizes that while the past can't be rewritten, it can be overcome.

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