Cold, rock-real times of elemental survival within a net of poverty and deprivation, as well as the individual and familial tactics that somehow pound out paths of survival--all in a first novel of searing impact set over the course of two decades in rural and urban Maine. In 1958, the Rudge family--father Jarvis, mother Viola, and children Kendrick, Krista, and retarded son Flynn--watch the boss's chicken house (and a job and shelter) go up in flames, a fire ``prancing on quick arched feet.'' The Rudges move on, dogged by bad luck, but the family is tight in loyalty. And there is compassion, as they befriend a child victim of a sloppy foster-care program--Freddie, who boards with a monstrous pair, one of whom kills Freddie's tiny baby brother and conceals the crime. The Rudges will cross lineages with the Pembrokes when Krista grows up and marries Logan Pembroke, son of Gage, a batterer, a blamer, a hater. Logan, who will father three children (all will reject him, one by one), is merely a mask of the eerily primeval, de-fanged killer that was his old man. (Logan sneers on the edge of a pit where his son--he'd beat his dog to death--methodically smashes the bike his father had given him as the dying sun engulfs Logan in fire, ``huge, and tipped on his cane like a maimed god''). Over the years, innocence is outraged and hurt, and most often goodness is not rewarded. Yet there are escapes for a younger generation, as well as moments of shared joy, and the loveliness of the land and sky--for those who would see. Moore's people are wholly realized, and even the most vicious have within them a nugget of self-knowledge that marks them as, alas, human. With a prose as clean as an arctic night, a fiercely moving novel about primitive ancient maneuverings against destiny in a modern age.