Roscoe Americus, Jr. owns a small-town Ohio bar--after an early life of promise as a college football star. . . that slid into a grim stint as a pro wrestler. . . that slid even further into menial work at a local mill. Roscoe is separated from schoolteacher wife Charlotte. His girlfriend Everjean's teenage son is falsely accused of murder--but Roscoe is frustrated in his attempts to help the boy, In fact, nothing much goes right at all for Roscoe anymore, despite attempts at physical rejuvenation (running, playing on a semi-pro football team) and visits with his father from beyond the grave--who offers accounts of family lore and buck-up advice. And this family lore, as it happens, is the novel's strongest material: in the sketching-in of the history and dispersal of a Midwestern, middle-class black family, McCluskey (Look What They Done To My Song) achieves his best moments--which come early on, with talk of a family reunion. Elsewhere, however, the book is damp with self-pity, uninvolvingly (and illogically) constructed--and the potential drama of the Americus family is only hinted at in the scattered, energy-less narrative.