This first novel examines, in a manner perfunctory and drab, a dreary situation of devastating domestication. The eight surviving members of the Woodruff family, scattered in 1939 throughout the U.S., are anxiously awaiting the death of their unloved and loveless miserly father, Simon, who drove his wife to an early grave and who was indirectly responsible for the deaths of his three children. The eight Woodruffs -- Matthew, a phony revivalist, Luke, a shyster lawyer, Peter, a woman chaser, James, a homosexual, Esther, married to a drunkard, Mary, a millionaire's wife, Mark, a pump, Ruth, insane -- assemble in Massachusetts after Simon's death for their expected huge inheritance. But Simon has cheated once again: until Ruth's death his money will be kept in trust. The family confrontation and Ruth's subsequent convenient death is presented as the Woodruff curative and their general change for the better, albeit through a devious route. This effort is prosaically serious, thickly earnest; the result is only fatiguing.