Wood (Vital Signs, 1985; Soul Flame, 1987, etc.) has tracked doctor/healer women bucketing on to survival against mighty odds; here, a young Englishwoman, arrived in 1871 to pioneer Australia, embarks on a search for the nightmare core of a generational curse- -both thwarted and aided by the rapidly disappearing secret ancient culture of the Aborigines. Joanne Drury meets sheep-rancher Hugh Westbrook on the dock upon her arrival from England; Hugh is to take charge of five-year- old orphaned Adam, a frenzied, silent, terrified child. Joanna's dead mother, like Adam, had been transported alone back to England, a traumatized child, but it was not until Joanna was six that her mother became the prey of dreams--dogs, a terrible serpent, a curse--that eventually killed her. Joanna, who agreed to be ``nanny'' for Adam, has brought with her a satchel of odd artifacts, including a deed to a land unknown, pages of cryptic symbols, and (later found) a priceless opal. Throughout the years of love, marriage, children, pairings of friends, and struggles to save the ranch from storms and a sworn enemy, Joanna, coached by a half-Aborigine friend, learns something of the old ways, as well as the ``soul links'' of the ``dreamings'' and ``songlines.'' When six-year-old Beth is almost killed by a wild dog, her mother, Joanna, knows she must go beyond what she already understands from the satchel's contents. But it is not until some years later that Joanna, in a cave at the center of the Great Victoria Desert, will meet her mother's nightmare. Like Phyllis Whitney in her psychic period--with a teasing mystery, great scenery, and specialty info (here, the customs of the Aborigines)--but Wood's quest tale is plumper, looser, and busy with a swag of delaying incident before the close.