Outlander

Diana Gabaldon, Author Delacorte Press $30 (640p) ISBN 978-0-385-30230-2

Absorbing and heartwarming, this first novel lavishly evokes the land and lore of Scotland, quickening both with realistic characters and a feisty, likable heroine. English nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall and husband Frank take a second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands in 1945. When Claire walks through a cleft stone in an ancient henge, she's somehow transported to 1743. She encounters Frank's evil ancestor, British captain Jonathan ``Black Jack'' Randall, and is adopted by another clan. Claire nurses young soldier James Fraser, a gallant, merry redhead, and the two begin a romance, seeing each other through many perilous, swashbuckling adventures involving Black Jack. Scenes of the Highlanders' daily life blend poignant emotions with Scottish wit and humor. Eventually Sassenach (outlander) Claire finds a chance to return to 1945, and must choose between distant memories of Frnak and her happy, uncomplicated existence with Jamie. Claire's resourcefulness and intelligent sensitivity make the love-conquers-all, happily-ever-after ending seem a just reward. Doubleday Book Club main selection, Literary Guild alternate. (July)