A grim story about a tough, resourceful Southern family in the Civil War is somewhat submerged by the weight of lyrical detail piled on the tale, and by the slow pace of the telling. There's no doubt that Frazier can write; the problem is that he stops so often to savor the sheer pleasure of the act of writing in this debut effort. Inman, seeing that the end of the war is near, decides to leave his regiment and go back home to Ada, the bright, stubborn woman he loves. His adventures traversing a chaotic, impoverished land, Ada's struggles to preserve her father's farm, and the harsh, often powerful tales of the rough-hewn individuals they encounter take up most of the narrative. The tragic climax is convincing but somewhat rushed, given the many dilatory scenes that have preceded it. Frazier has Cormac McCarthy's gift for rendering the pitch and tang of regional speech, and for catching some of the true oddity of human nature, but he doesn't yet possess McCarthy's ferocious focus. A promising but overlong, uneven debut.