cover image The Names of the Mountains

The Names of the Mountains

Reeve Lindbergh. Simon & Schuster, $18.5 (237pp) ISBN 978-0-671-73148-9

The author, the youngest child of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, has earned a solid reputation chiefly on the basis of her adult nonfiction ( The View from the Kingdom ) and her children's books ( The Day the Goose Got Loose ); this exceptionally perceptive, graceful novel, her second, should win her distinction as a first-rate stylist and storyteller. Clearly autobiographical and narrated by Lindbergh's fictional counterpart, Cressida, it describes the dynamics of the phenomenally famous but publicity-shy Linley family (parents Cal and Alicia are legendary aviators and writers). The five siblings, presented in adulthood but with their shared childhood glimpsed through Cressida's reminiscences, all cope with the ghost of their oldest brother, kidnapped and killed before they were born; with their parents' paradoxical attitudes toward their role in history; and, urgently, with the deteriorating memory of their aging, long-widowed mother. Lindbergh manages to be at once revealing and respectful; far from an expose, her book is filled with insight and affection. Cressida, for example, recalls her father's claim that his children never listened to him: ``He seemed surprised and amused when he said this, as if our attitude was unique in his experience, as perhaps it was.'' This view of the reclusive Lindberghs would be noteworthy even had it come from a pedestrian writer--instead, this author's writing would be noteworthy even had she come from a pedestrian family. (Dec.)