Books: Graveyard Bustling with Life

THE ORDWAYS by William Humphrey. 362 pages. Knopf. $5.95.

Good writing is rare enough. Storytelling is an even rarer skill. A genuinely comic vision is beyond price. The Ordways has all three. Seven years after his doom-laden first novel, Home from the Hill, William Humphrey has made a surprising switch from tragedy to mock epic. The result is the most delightful novel so far this winter.

Humphrey's darkly memorable earlier book unraveled the archetypal family quadrangle. The Ordways also is a family saga; it, too, is set in an East Texas small town and begins in a graveyard. But there the resemblance ends....

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