Kathleen Hirsch, a journalist of urban affairs and author of Songs from the Alley about homelessness, has written a stirring paean to community. Since 1990 the author has lived in Jamaica Plain, a racially diverse Boston neighborhood with a population of 43,000. "What keeps us bound to one another is our patter, swapping the inside skinny on house breaks, closing prices, love affairs. Outsiders may view this patter as a dull fruitcake of half-truths and thirdhand lies. But to us who are wed to a place, even the smallest fillip is fodder for our common life."

With great economy, vigor, and compassion, Hirsch honors neighbors who have brought local culture alive in Jamaica Plain: the woman who reclaimed a local pond, a former drug dealer who is the director of the local YMCA, a woman pizza parlor owner who was once on welfare, and the editor and publisher of The Jamaica Plain Gazette that offers "a moving portrait of the community."

Hirsch shows how rituals, festivals, historical societies, and informal communication centers all play a vital part in the creation of civic solidarity. By telling the stories of the place where she lives, the author has given us a model for the formation of authentic neighborhood life.