Hebert's debut novel centers around 50-year-old Howard Elman, a mill foreman in Darby, New Hampshire, who, raised a foster child, is now bricked into illiteracy and a rage he cannot articulate. Wife Elenore is a ""TV Catholic,"" faithful to whatever televised masses come over Channel 22. Their grown daughters have moved away, one son is at the Univ. of N.H. (Howard feels the boy will be stolen from him by education), and only one child remains at home: buck-toothed, eleven-year-old Heather, who floods Howard's heart with helpless love. When the mill closes up to relocate down South, all Howard really has is a house and a 50-acre farm, land he bought with G.I. pay in 1946 and which he's kept stubbornly unworked because of his hate for his farmer foster parents: nothing grows on his land but some garden vegetables and an ever-increasing crop of junked cars. But then the neighboring spread is bought by a rich city woman, Zoe Cutter, who has plans to open a country boutique and crafts center; she's offended by Howard's unsightly surroundings and makes him an offer that's hard for an unemployed, skill-less man to turn down. By story's end, however, Howard has the last laugh. That's the plot, an old one: feisty locals beating off chic interlopers. But Hebert, in focusing upon Howard, avoids every clichâ€š of writing about inarticulate people. Each character here is minutely particular, deeply respected by the author; Hebert persuades us that in everyone there is an intelligence so sacred and strong that contests of will are the only interesting things in life; that there are no types. Nothing is harder than to write accurately and unsentimentally about characters considered (by others and even themselves) ""dumb""--even Faulkner faltered at this--but Hebert has done it superbly.