A couple from Boston, Robert and Jill, move to the New England country-side, caught up with the idea of building a stone house. Noah Carmichael, a local carpenter and something of a hermit, becomes their chief contractor and, eventually, their close friend. Robert and Jill are fascinated with Noah's Emersonian self-reliance, his nature-communing, his laconic courtesy and authenticity. Childless (though furiously and sadly trying to conceive), they just about adopt Noah in smothering friendship; and Jill, in time, will make sexual advances as well. Told by Noah, this story offers no surprises, and only Jill comes off as an original character, complex and desperate; first-novelist Eberhart relegates the others to posturing, in prose that's uncomfortably D. H. Lawrence-soaked: ""I lay and rolled upon the green ground. I stretched and groaned against the earth. I shuddered, I quivered, I pressed my face deep into the verdure and inhaled the fetid, brown smell."" Absorbing in stretches, and deliberate throughout--but ultimately too ponderous and self-conscious to be anything more than a faintly promising debut.