Ben Spier
March 09, 2007 AT 05:00 AM EST

Yellowcake

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Ann Cummins
publisher
Houghton Mifflin
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B

New Mexico, 1991: Yellowcake, the uranium extract used to make nuclear fuel, has brought a toxic legacy of illness to retired factory workers in Ann Cummins’ flawed but affecting novel. This is no antinuke broadside, but a tangled family saga pitting the Anglo clan of ailing ex — mill boss Ryland Mahoney against Navajo banker Becky Atcitty and her free-spirited aunt Alice, mistress of Ryland’s best friend. As they grapple with mortality and family and tribal loyalties, Cummins at times struggles to hold plot strands together. Yet her layered characters, terse prose, and spare imagery linger like a ride on a winding desert highway. B

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