Truth Potion

SLOW POISON

by Sheila Bosworth

Knopf; 322 pages; $21

Do Southern writers have longer memories than other people, or does it only seem that way? In her second novel, Sheila Bosworth, a New Orleans native, evokes her home state and its people with elegiac grace and gusts of humor. The combination goes down as smoothly as bourbon mixed with bitters and sugar, a drink that has "the transcendent blend of passion and troubles and sweet pity."

On a flight from Manhattan to Louisiana, Rory Cade recounts a family history that echoes the turbulent events of the '60s. The slow poison of...