A lesser Singer, disappointing after this year's posthumously published, The Family Carnovsky. Singer seemed at his best in closely recording the intimate tensions within the closed Jewish community of Europe. In this novel he spreads his interests too thin--workers' revolts, planned communities--and the effect is episodic and scattered. Following the fortunes of Benjamin Lerner, A.W.O.L. from the Imperial Russian Army, the author travels through German-occupied Poland and Russia just prior to the Russian Revolution. Lerner, on the run, hides out in Poland at a detested uncle's house, falls in love with his cousin Gitta, hires on a work team under an obscene and repressive German, helps to organize a workers' strike, travels to Russia with Gitta to aid in setting up a kind of commune with miserable, apathetic Jews. The experiment fails under German rule, Gitta is tortured and violated and Lerner is taken prisoner. At the last he is in Petrograd storming the Palace in October. On such a large canvas Singer's talents for quiet intuitions and gentle warmth are never fully evident.