From Publishers Weekly
Once in a while a book comes along that sears the heart and burns its way into memory through an eloquent, moving and resonating depiction of the human condition. This third novel (Rituals, Mirror Images) by the daughter of poet Anne Sexton qualifies on all those counts. Allie Yates lives with her husband Sam, her three young childrenAnna and the twins Meggie and Jamieand her gruff, pragmatic mother-in-law Tobie on a New Hampshire farm. Allie is an outsider of sorts: not only was she brought up in the city, but she is an artist. She has, however, willingly accepted the unending labor of farm life and the sacrifices required by her husband's attempt to breed horses in addition to the basic farm staple of raising chickens. Theirs is a happy family despite a chronic shortage of funds, which Allie augments by designing for Hallmark greeting cards while also painting more ambitious works, which she shows to no one. Two-year-old Jamie, a precocious, mischievous charmer, demonstrates incipient artistic talent, a bond that intensifies Allie's special relationship with her only son and favorite child. When Jamie dies, leaving Allie torn by grief and guilt, the family fabric disintegrates, and Allie herself teeters on the verge of madness, until she finds surcease and a new meaning in her art. In this subtly nuanced, luminous and never cheaply sentimental portrayal of family relationships profoundly altered through tragedy and redeemed by love, Sexton has dared to confront a parent's worst nightmare and has created a novel memorable for its insight and wisdom as well as its lyrical prose.