copyright 1999 Judy Budnitz. Picador USA. 304 pgs. Fiction.

Odd book. The first few pages may leave you wondering if it's a fable, or a fairy tale, memoir, or what. The answer is of course that it's a blend of a bunch of stuff, generally unclassifiable unless you want to come up with some cute new adjective ("folky-tale" or something horrible). If you can dig it, it's a good read. Those who need more concrete guidelines will go crazy at not knowing how far to suspend their disbelief.

The book tells the story of four generations of women. When the narration changes hands, the tone of the book shifts. Old-fashioned folktale-type stuff for Ilana, including magic and mythological beasts. Sashie tells a story slightly more contemporary, more so with her daughter, more so with her daughter. These are not drastic shifts in voice, but enough of a change to throw some readers.

Altogether, a good read, notwithstanding the numerous deaths and other pain these four women must live through. These are beautiful words, even when describing gruesome images. War, death, men who leave, the women stay together, always. The words are what will keep you going, and the last page is just right.