T. Greenwood, Author . St. Martin's $23.95 (256p) ISBN 0-312-28473-X

In her third novel (after Nearer than the Sky), Greenwood tells the lyrical, delicately affecting tale of a young woman dying of breast cancer who tries to come to terms with memories of the mother who abandoned her when she was 14. Piper Kincaid, now 30, has not seen her mother, a collector and arranger of broken, throwaway pieces of glass, since she abruptly left her husband (a worker at the town dump) and two children. Returning to live in her hometown of Quimby, Vt., Piper resolves to end her seemingly hopeless chemotherapy and sort through the detritus of her childhood. The narrative, a mosaic of splintered memories fit skillfully together, is Piper's first-person version of the events that shaped her early years: her mother's inability to "breathe" in her marriage, the clues to her impending departure, Piper's subsequent perilous affair with her music teacher. Mr. Hammer—fragile-souled, sympathetic and ill-named—believes that Piper has a gift for singing, yet he fails her because he, too, is "broken"—vulnerable and needy after the tragic death of his wife. Glass becomes the redeeming metaphor for Piper: objects shattered and cast off are transformed into "miracles that needed only a little light to come alive." Told in brief, richly layered segments as Piper moves closer, with the help of her selfless best friend, Becca, to the recognition of her own death, Greenwood's account of a woman with nothing left to lose is heartbreaking. In the end, what is not explained—such as what happens to the characters in the intervening years and whether Piper finds them again—proves as moving as what is revealed. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 01/01/2002
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