Raised by relatives after her mother's death, Babs works hard, with one idea as a touchstone: marry well. When she finals in a local pageant, Babs has her pick of the boys, and she marries airman Tom Hoffman for love. After Tom's killed, Babs faces many challenges: earning a living, a custody dispute over her daughter, Laney, and a sexual assault.

Marriage to lawyer Acee Clifton saves her, ironically. Acee was once her uncle's idea of a suitable husband. But even though Babs devotes herself to improving Acee's home and career prospects, mistakenly seeing this as showing love, she's emotionally unavailable to him and Laney. As Laney grows to adulthood, she doesn't understand Babs and has no desire to -- until her own daughter intervenes.

An often deeply emotional reading experience, this story explores universal themes in a different way. Babs is a difficult character to like, but it's eventually possible for the reader, as well as for Laney, to understand her. (Feb., 352 pp., $12.95)
Reviewed by: 
Catherine Witmer