A first-class yarnspinner (The Search for Temperance Moon, 1991, etc.) lives up to his award-winning standard in this latest saga from the Arkansas wilderness--in which a hardy pioneer family survives an earthquake, Indian attackers, and the designs of unscrupulous men before taking root and prospering in the Ozarks. The Fawley clan, of humble English origin, arrives in St. Louis--then the edge of the frontier--at the beginning of the 19th century, when Spanish, French, British, and American interests were vying for control. Taking his family into the forest in search of a homestead, Boone Fawley soon becomes embroiled in a savage trading war, narrowly avoiding the gruesome fate suffered by upstart traders who befriended him. Subsequent tranquility is shattered by the cataclysm of the New Madrid earthquake, which swallows the Fawley cabin and Boone's sister, leaving him befuddled and increasingly helpless, and forcing his wife and sons to take charge. Questor and John save their father from would-be robbers en route to a new home, so that the family arrives intact in the hills above Little Rock, settling down to raise cotton and run a profitable still--until one day Boone wanders off to Texas never to be seen again. His grieving wife Molly dies when bitten by a snake, and the boys carry on, increasingly indebted to the ruthless planter who owns their fields and covets John's lovely bride. They escape their virtual slavery when an Eastern rube comes along wanting to buy the land from them. They flee to the remote Ozarks, but trouble follows and a final bloody encounter is necessary before they can be fully free of their past. Vivid and lively, with each character superbly drawn: an engrossing if far-fetched tale of family life and unsung heroes in the taming of the West.