cover image Who Do You Love?

Who Do You Love?

Valerie Sayers. Doubleday Books, $18.95 (325pp) ISBN 978-0-385-41085-4

Sayers's gift for delineating family relationships against the microcosm of a small Southern town grows more assured with each novel. This third book to be set in Due East, S.C., focuses on the Irish Catholic Rooney family, outsiders in the community because of their religion, Dolores Rooney's New York origins and her outspoken championing of integration. On the unseasonably warm November day in 1963 during which most of the story takes place, Dolores ruminates over her fifth pregnancy and what it will mean to the family's already shaky finances, and Bill Rooney hopes to sell a prize piece of real estate to help his faltering business, meanwhile thinking bitter thoughts about Dolores's sanctimonious piety and intellectual superiority. Eleven-year-old Kate feels the stirrings of sexuality, and gains some insights from her teenage brothers. And a New York Times reporter whom Dolores brings home to dinner trains a spotlight on their inner lives and sets in motion an event whose implications will reverberate down the years. Then President Kennedy's assassination unites them in terrible grief. Sayers's prose has verve and humor, her view of Southern life is clear-eyed, authentic and generous. Her compassionate understanding of the strains, worries and missed communications of marriage gives this book depth and staying power. (Mar.)