Using the sensitivity to the decay of English society acclaimed in his first novel (PIG, 1996), Cowan offers a companion view: This time, he offers the tale of a young couple facing parenthood in a crumbling house on a rough street in a city where urban blight holds particular menace for a grove of ancient trees on the Common. Ashley and Jay aren't married, but they've lived together long enough to buy a house and to feel at ease with the decision to go through with Jay's pregnancy. Ashley hates his teaching job anyway and is quite willing to share childrearing duties by shifting to half-time work. Jay cuts back at her job, too, but finds it harder to give up her part in the increasingly desperate protests of a group trying to stop a long-planned bypass road from going through the forest on the Common--especially since her activist sister has already become deeply involved. Being thrust into parenthood comes as a rude awakening for both Jay and Ashley, as Ashley chronicles in his frequent letters to a brother who's been trekking around the world in search of himself. Part of Ashley wishes he also were trekking, but, later, another part of him revels in the domestic bliss of watching his new daughter Maggie grow. Eventually, his decision to quit teaching altogether in order to let Jay go back to work full-time seems the right thing to do, and when he finally drops his opposition to her joining fully in the fight against the road (now escalated to an encampment in the trees and physical clashes), Ashley takes his own large step down a road offering answers to the nagging questions in his life. Not as poignant as PIG, but a more comprehensive appraisal of the fissures running deep and long through English life--from intimate family matters on through those of the larger community, and touching issues of personal identity as well as those of a nation.