Books: Prodigal Mom

Rockers, spelunkers and a runaway mother

Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard out of Carolina and other fiction that could be pirated for an album's worth of country-and-western, knows a thing or two about lonely nights and cheating hearts. She also has a grip on the elementary physics of gender: women are centripetal, the force that binds. Men are centrifugal; for all their good intentions, they feel best when whirling away from the center.

Allison's deeply etched females are pulled both ways. Like Delia Byrd in Allison's Cavedweller (E.P. Dutton; 435 pages; $24.95), they can achieve escape velocity and attempt dangerous re-entries.

Delia is a pop singer who...

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