Another quintessentially American saga from Oregon writer Duncan, moving from the metaphysics of fishing in his first novel (The River Why, 1983) to an exploration here of bush-league baseball and the perils of Seventh-Day Adventism during the Vietnam era. The remarkable Chance family consists of six precocious children orbiting at various altitudes and velocities around their equally distinctive parents. Papa Hugh is a sublimely talented pitcher whose career is cut short by an accident in which his thumb is crushed, while Mama Laura zealously wields Adventist tenets to guard herself and her brood against devils and doubts. Four brothers and twin sisters grow up in this pressure-cooker of frustration and blind faith, which becomes more intense as the boys go their separate ways and encounter maternal resistance. Hugh has an operation in which part of his big toe is grafted onto his thumb, prompting the return of his self-respect and a stirring comeback in the minors, but the family situation continues to decay when Vietnam turns one son into a draft-dodger on the lam in Canada and claims another--the gentlest and most religious of the lot--as a foot soldier, until conflict between the boy's faith and daily reality brings him to assault an officer who ordered the execution of a child prisoner. After he's been shut away in an Army hospital and battered by electroshock treatment, his family reunites to free him, bringing him home just as Hugh begins a rapid, losing battle with cancer. Unfortunately losing focus as it tracks family members around the world to Vietnam and British Columbia as well as rural India, this epic story is still marvelously detailed and poignant, and a garden of delights for baseball lovers.