when carson mccullers was a teenager, she came to new york city to study piano at juilliard. she never matriculated; she lost the purse with her tuition money in it. such small, unredressed tragedies as these are at the silent, solitary heart of mccullers' first novel, which centers on a deaf-mute and a teenage tomboy living in a small georgia town in the 1930s. mccullers' characters reach out to one another for sympathy and understanding, but not all of them can complete the connection, and their isolated thoughts form a choir of amazing, transcendent poignance—music only the reader can hear. —l.g.