In this luminous story of family life--the first novel by Susan Minot, author of the highly acclaimed Evening--the seven Vincent children follow their Catholic mother to Mass and spend Thanksgiving with their father's aging parents who come from a world of New England priviledge. As they grow older, they meet with the perplexing lives of adults. Susan Minot writes with delicacy and a tremendous gift for the details that decorate domestic life, and when tragedy strikes she beautifully mines the children's tenderness for each other, and their aching guardianship of what they have.
Minot chronicles the family life of Gus and Rosie Vincent and their seven children, dubbed ``monkeys'' by their mother. Rosie, or ``Mum,'' is the most vibrant character, creating a secure home for her children as she tries to mask her husband's alcholism and counter his withdrawal from the family. Minot has a fine eye for detail and a talent for creating tension through half-revealed clues in dialogue. However, because the book is very short, involves many characters, and spans roughly 13 years, the development of other characters is not satisfying. The chapters are rather disparate, the first, in fact, having a different narrator than the others. The final chapter, ``Thorofare,'' was included in The Best American Short Stories of 1984 and is perhaps the strongest section, providing a moving ending to an otherwise uneven novel. Lucinda Ann Peck, Learning Design Associates, Gahanna, Ohio