A brisk, calamity-packed saga (1800-1837) about two Irish-American families, linked by Old Country miseries, that set up housekeeping around future du Pont sites in the Brandywine River valley. In the opening chapters there's a jam-up of stage-Irish dialect and period clinkers. (President Jefferson to economist/diplomat Pierre du Pont de Nemours: ""I want to see if your Napoleon will sell us some real estate. It is a rather sizable parcel called Louisiana."") But things are soon bustling--as Patrick Gallagher and Denis Feeney go to work in I. du Pont's new gunpowder plant. ""The Mister"" is well-liked and respected; thanks to Patrick and peers, du Pont's first plant is saved from sabotage; the enterprise is a success--though Pat's wife Maggie will come to distrust the ""company store"" philosophy. Time goes by. Patrick's son Brendan matches up with Denis' daughter Noreen--but their plans to start a new life away from Brandywine are scuttled by young priest Francis Reardon (ambitious, establishment-oriented), who, to his horror, is attracted to Noreen. Worse yet, Noreen herself, after marriage and motherhood, becomes restless--with Brendan either absent or the provider of bafflingly unsatisfactory sex. So: enter the wolf in gentleman's clothing--a du Pont guest, Louis Jardinere, who seduces Noreen, taunts Father Reardon in the confessional, and leaves Noreen pregnant. (Baby Kate is the result.) More troubles are in store for Father Reardon: in a poverty outpost he boards with a regal black lady who runs an underground railroad for escaped slaves. And so on--from a terrible factory explosion. . . to Denis' drinking (he and Maggie share a tragic secret). . . to the return of Louis le Rat. . . to paternity-scandals when Kate comes of age. Solid family-woe entertainment (once past that creaky beginning), with sharp du Pont-history trimmings.