Emily Mead
September 19, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In her raw and unsettling first novel, acclaimed short-story writer Lancelotta searingly examines the family ties that sustain us as children but often smother us as adults. Martha, 30, a seriously lapsed Catholic, is in the throes of a physically electrifying but emotionally tamped-down affair when she abruptly decides to leave her hometown of Baltimore for the first time. Over several months of near-complete isolation in the small-town South, she ruthlessly deconstructs her flawed but loving family, her teenage indiscretions with boys, and her grown-up ambivalence about marriage and kids. With steely-eyed insight, Lancelotta cuts to the heart of a young woman’s longing for connection and her reflexive self-denial.

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