This is a family saga, unto the third generation, but it has been attenuated and falters after the death of the patriarchal father, the liveliest and most rewarding character in the book. He is Thomas Stapely, who came from the English Midlands where he had failed to make a living. Now, as the book opens, he is nearly sixty, a wealthy contractor in South Ilium, New York, where he is also a leading citizen. His eldest son is studying to become a doctor; his oldest daughter is his right hand; and there are two younger children, capricious Emily and undisciplined Will, whom he withdraws from school and takes on as an apprentice. But the family escapes him as they marry, and move away, to the city; his wife spends more time in New York than at home; and there is a general dissolution of ties and values. Will is forced into marriage with a girl he has compromised- but the best is brought out in all of them after the accident in which Will loses a leg, and returns to South Ilium with his wife and son.... A domesticated saga which is long, and leisurely, for a conventional, conservative market.