By Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
Updated August 04, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

As she has displayed in her past novels, including Ellen Foster and Charms for the Easy Life, Kaye Gibbons’ brilliance lies in examining with unsentimental tenderness a family poised on the brink of disaster. A less nimble author would have had a field day with the Barneses, a Southern clan controlled by the whims of a manic-depressive mother. But Gibbons makes us understand the complexities of relationships — how one cannot help but love even the craziest of mothers — without assigning blame. The plot aside (and there isn’t much of one, actually), Gibbons’ Sights Unseen is another chance to read what is surely one of the most lyrical voices writing today. A-