John Gregory Brown's luminous first novel takes on the enduring themes of great Southern fiction - family, race, and faith - in a heartbreaking tale of identity, devotion, and regret. At its rich emotional center is the Eagen family of New Orleans, Irish Catholics of mixed blood in a city where race defines destiny. The mesmerizing story begins with the collapse of a bridge and its consequences for Thomas Eagen, a troubled young doctor whose unforeseen journey still haunts his daughter, Meredith, years later. Still puzzling over her father's abrupt decision to leave his wife, the stepmother she had grown to love, Meredith ponders the questions that blinded Thomas to his children's needs. Why did his mother, a proud black woman, abandon his devout Catholic father, and why did Thomas's own marriage fail? The elusive answers to these questions lie for Meredith in the fateful return of the black handyman who holds in his memory the full story of the family's past. Through his clear-eyed account and her stepmother's tender letters, Meredith begins to unravel the misunderstandings that led them all, long ago, to tragedy. John Gregory Brown travels through this fertile Southern landscape with resonating grace, humor, and compassion, shedding light on the virtues and dangers of family loyalty and the power and limitations of faith. In praise of Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery, Lee Smith described this novel as shot through with love that transcends time and race. It introduces a writer of rare sensibility and accomplishment.