A disappointing first novel from the Pulitzer Prize--winning playwright. Mamet traverses ground familiar to those who read his collection of autobiographical essays (The Cabin, 1992), which often celebrates a sense of place. Here the locale is a New England village near the French-Canadian border. Again the elements are known -- hunting, smoking, beautiful women. Not surprisingly, despite the presence of female characters, the novel has a lean, masculine flavor as it follows the inhabitants of the village through a year in their unexceptional lives. Dickie, owner of the general store (complete with potbellied stove) that is the focal point of commerce, information, and fellowship, constantly doodles the figures of his mortgage payment as he slips slowly into bankruptcy; a woman attracts the attention and lust of married men as well as single ones; one man becomes a local celebrity after he fends off some would-be attackers in the woods; another delights in nothing more than the simple pleasure of sitting in the sun at an auction, his cigarettes in his pocket and his dark glasses on. Old loves are remembered: a mother by her son, a woman by her former boyfriend. Beneath the restrained surface of the town, however, there is brooding anger and violence. A wife is beaten and the police are summoned. Marriages go sour but continue in silence. Through the year, the village itself, following the unchanging rhythms of the seasons, emerges as the only real character of the book. The townspeople are interchangeable cardboard cutouts, merely set decorations for the location. This is subdued, for Mamet. He seems to want the reader to read it as he hears it on his mind's painstakingly crafted stage. But good, sharp, realistic dialogue can't save what comes across essentially as a banal, masculine, low-key Peyton Place.