cover image Cousins


Paulette Jiles. Alfred A. Knopf, $24 (365pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58014-2

Poet Jiles ( Blackwater ), on a trip home from Canada to the Missouri Ozarks, has a romance with Jim Johnson, a married retired army officer and Vietnam vet. Despite their political disagreements (she's a dove, he's a hawk), Johnson leaves his wife to travel with Jiles across the U.S. South on a pilgrimage to find and interview the author's cousins on her father's side. Jiles successfully brings their love affair to life, recounting mutual passion as well as fiery arguments with spirit and wit. Woven throughout the travel anecdotes are interesting verbatim interviews with Jiles's cousins, who unravel family mysteries and give her a new perspective on her background. An inventive memoir combining adventure, introspection and the redemptive power of love between two middle-aged people who revel in their differences. (Feb.)