Elisabeth Hyde, Author . MacAdam/Cage $25 (170p) ISBN 978-1-59692-200-6

Izzy's world is about to turn upside down. Tomorrow is her 41st birthday, a particularly momentous occasion because the day her mother turned 41, she committed suicide. As Izzy puts it, "I was about to enter virgin time, the second half of a life unlived, a life my mother never knew." Her unpredictable sister, Ellie, and their quietly suffering father are flying to Colorado to help her cross this critical threshold. Hyde (Monoosook Valley) impresses with her nimble use of language, humor in the face of tragedy and an uncanny ability to portray the fractured life resulting from being raised by a mother with severe emotional problems. Like Anne Tyler, Hyde captures the quirky, heartbreaking core of a character and puts it on the page with shining prose. The story, from Izzy's viewpoint, alternates between her present-day difficulties—keeping a wary eye on her sister, who seems to be slipping into the same madness that claimed their mother, and juggling life with her husband and her legal practice—and the past, in which the story of Ellie and Izzy's childhood unfolds. A picture emerges of a life filled with adventure and bursts of spontaneity, as well as shattering embarrassments and emptiness. The experiences of a 12-year-old girl handling the tragic circumstances of her mother's death and the ensuing funeral glow with clarity and empathy. Throughout, the author maintains a delicate tension as Izzy comes to terms with her difficult sister's life and her own guilt about their mother's suicide, in a novel full of originality and sparkle. (Mar. 1)