The latest hardscrabble upcountry tale from Chute is as grimly realistic and brutal--and as disjointed--as its two predecessors (The Beans of Egypt, Maine, 1985, and Letourneau's Used Auto Parts, 1988). Poverty and despair abound in Egypt, Maine, where the escapades of two generations of Barringtons and Johnsons provide a patchwork of fierce, often self-destructive eccentricity. Lloyd Barrington grew up leading a double life: by day the child sentinel over his father's philanderings, by night the heroic Super Tree Man, planting maple seedlings in the yards of less-fortunate townspeople. Forest Johnson, Jr., inherited his father's livelihood as keeper of Egypt's roads, but hard times and dwindling budgets have made his job a nightmare--especially when someone begins a series of thefts and raids to avenge Forest's exploitation of his crews. Other lives intersect with these, especially the odd coupling of depressed ex-con Carroll Plummer and the young firebrand Anneka, who organizes the women of Egypt in protest after a housewife is shot to death in her backyard during hunting season and the hunter is allowed to go free. But the themes of class-based poverty and privilege--a steady undercurrent in the depiction of each family's toil and trouble--come into open opposition when rich widow Gwen returns to her childhood hometown and begins to lust after her college-educated, cemetery-maintaining woodman--working- class hero Lloyd. With her eye fixed as ever on the peculiar partnership between good and evil, Chute continues to offer a no-nonsense view of her proud, embattled corner of America--but a rambling narrative style still provides only the occasional engaging moment.