Memories of yesteryear family-tragedy mix with present-day fears of nuclear accident--in a good, hot-biscuit debut: a Maine gothic with more punch and size than recent Ogilvie. Tave, wife of schoolteacher Bob and mother of two, is restless and unhappy, doubtful about the worth of her painting, about her ability to cope with life. Then, alone on Octavia Hill, while husband and children are at school, Tave gets the news of a nuclear explosion at a Vermont Air Base. And, as she's forced to descend to the cellar (a lifelong source of terror), the story moves back in time to the young days of her grandmother: Lucy Marlowe Perry, daughter of a delicate, proper Bostonian mother (the first Octavia) and brutal father Luther, whose brutality caused his wife's death in the Maine house he built and named for her. Circa 1910, then, Lucy--who has been with her Marlowe grandparents since her mother's death--returns to father Luther, an ill, savage, and downright evil man. Evil, too, is his younger shadow, Alden Green, whose services go beyond mere farm management. But what Lucy sees--and suffers--will give her the ""poker spine"" to survive, even if it's at the cost of longtime alienation from warmth and society. After Luther's death, Lucy does find a congenial companion in nice Jane; they'll both teach happily in a one-room schoolhouse. Then she marries handsome Aldair and bears son Marlowe--but Aldair runs off forever with Jane. Years later, the sunny marriage of Tave's parents--likable young Marlowe, capable countrywoman Amy--will be destroyed by the lurking shadow of Alden Green. And finally, in her dark cellar with ghost voices, Tare wonders why we ignore the possibility of nuclear accident: ""Like living on Octavia's Hill with the Greens somewhere just outside. You knew they were there. And what did you do? Nothing."" But she'll be restored to sunlight and a new perspective--after a jolt of real, flesh-and-blood terror. A solid yarn with strong (never quaintsy) Maine environs, neatly and smoothly spun off.