There is only one author whose books I absolutely must own: Ellen Gilchrist. I stumbled across her in my college library while browsing the shelves and ever since I have eagerly awaited each new publication. Primarily a short story writer, Gilchrist has also written novels, poetry and essays. Her books follow a sprawling cast of characters throughout their various families, hopes, loves, disasters, and triumphs. In Starcarbon, Ellen Gilchrist focuses once again on the Hand family. This Southern clan is spread all over from Oklahoma to Louisana, North Carolina to Boston, but the ties that bind them hold firm, the love they share burns fiercely and their loyalty to one another remains unrelenting. Focusing on a younger generation introduced in I Cannot Get you Close Enough, this novel tells the story of Olivia and her half-sister Jessie. Olivia returns to Oklahoma to spend the summer after her first year of college with her maternal grandparents, who raised her, and reconnects with her high school boyfriend Bobby Tree. Meanwhile, spoiled Jessie tries to make a success of her new marriage to immature King while they plan for the arrival of their first child. These two stories play out against the love affairs and various family relationships of an older generation of friends and family. I love Gilchrist’s characters, especially her feisty, sexy, demanding women and their ability to face the world head on and make the best of what they’ve got, even when that means letting go of the familiar and bravely taking on the world anew. I am particularly fond of this novel because Olivia, one of my favorite characters, spends the summer in Oklahoma which is where I grew up. It is not necessary to read Ellen Gilchrist’s books in any particular order and this novel is an excellent introduction to her characters and the world in which they live. Starcarbon by Ellen Gilchrist.