Fathers and sons, communicating painfully as they diminish in ambition from generation to generation. Grandfather Aaron left his two sons in an orphanage so he could roam in Europe and the U.S., marrying here and there, making money and losing it with the same cool that he applied to an assassin sent by the mob to rub him out in Paris. Father Moses, desiccated by the sour cruelty of orphanage days, took his one-shot gambling stakes, invested in a college education, and became a teacher of English in a Massachusetts high school. And now son Dennis, weary of meaningless toil in the great world, has retreated to the country to raise vegetables with his young wife Maxie. This is Dennis' account of the ripping and healing of the connective tissue binding the three ""sealed worlds"" of three bright men at a loss in dealing with parental/filial love. ""Each of us hoped to. . . destroy a barrier. . . but [this] became confused with shattering a person."" And all prove adept at shattering--particularly Moses, who leaves his wife (he just wants ""space""), visits Dennis, and in his attempt to storm barriers, destroys Dennis' vegetable garden and makes an obscene pass at Maxie. Eventually the three will meet in a city bar and Dennis will sleep--it seems a bit much already at this point--with Moses' mistress. Finally, after all the making and breaking, the tension between Dennis and Moses becomes love instead of anger. Although the endless sparring becomes tiresome and Maxie is of the Fallopian-tube-and-boob school of caricature, first-novelist Black writes with a certain dark vitality about kin striving vainly to escape the lineal imprint.