This posthumous novel, completed a week before the author's death, evokes vivid details of Midwestern Americana during this century's first decades. Much of the background material has a freshly remembered quality that is very creditable, yet on every page exist double images of hard detail and sentimentality. This is odd, because controlling the story is an underlying conception of the boy's steady loss of illusions until, finally, he loses a leg while fighting in France and emerges as a fairly clear-eyed, self-sufficient individualist. When the lad, George Chalmers, gives up his faith in Santa Claus, Easter bunnies, and an illustrated Ten Commandments hung over his bed, he gets his first jolt of the existential jitters. At thirteen, he loses his virginity to a farm girl and accepts ""sin"" as a way of life. The city girl he loves dies of appendicitis. His sister carries and the house feels vacant. Then suddenly, one afternoon while his mother is away, George discovers his father dead on the couch. And so the incidents collect and deepen, until even readers with sold brass sympathetic ganglia may find themselves surprisingly moved. Somehow, sentimentality works for this novel.