In her impressive debut novel, Lee uses strong, vivid language and fine dialogue to chronicle the lives of members of two Midwestern African American families from the early days of the century to the present. Eula Smalls, her son LaRue and her daughter Vesta move in with Polaris and Ruby Staples, and their daughter Ouida, after Eula's husband dies in an accident. The families merge, with Ruby becoming second mother to the sensitive LaRue, who invents tales that charm the family. Vesta and Ouida become like sisters. Polaris, a kind and loving family man, submerges his pride to keep his job. Later, Ouida takes up with a woman and LaRue becomes a writer of folk stories and oral history. Ruby dies giving birth to Dessie, who grows up to yearn for middle-class life. Often suffering, always strong, the families survive wars, poverty and bigotry. Laced with LaRue's charming tales and a fine historical overview, Lee's novel delivers consistently entertaining characters in an engaging story.