Many great novels tell a sweeping, epic story. In contrast, Eudora Welty's 1972 novel "The Optimist's Daughter" tells a simple story of a few people dealing with the death of someone close.

Laurel had already lost her husband and mother when she traveled from Chicago to New Orleans to care for her father, Judge Clint McKelva, following his surgery. When McKelva dies, Laurel and her father's second wife, Fay, return to the family's Mississippi home to prepare for the funeral. Fay is younger than Laurel and proves to be selfish and melodramatic. She seems to have married the man only for his money. As the old man's life slipped away, Fay complained: "I don't see why this had to happen to me." Fay's sense of entitlement and her anger contrast with Laurel's sweetness.

Scenes of the dying father, the mourners coming to pay their respects, and the conflict between Laurel and Fay are memorable for the emotion shown. Welty excels at writing dialogue that brings to life her characters.

This book triggered memories of my own life. I recall the death of each of my parents and how people who knew various parts of their lives remembered them differently. I remembered the death of my widowed sister and the aftermath, in which her second husband showed his true colors, which were not good. Laurel had to deal with similar issues as she grieved for her father.

"The Optimist's Daughter" is a short book with little action, but the author packs it with emotion. It is a story of a young woman's self-discovery as she deals with her grief. It is well worth the time it takes to read.