Aging parents and a troubled, ne'er-do-well brother draw Brox home to the family farm in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts, where she confronts an age-old dilemma: the conflict between familial duty and the need to live one's own life. Farming in contemporary New England is primarily an act of faith, much like the insistence of Brox's 83-year-old father on planting orchard saplings he'll never see bear fruit. Shunted to the margins of society, hemmed in by second-growth forest and sprawling suburbia, the family farm is further hamstrung by Sam, the surly, undependable scion whose cocaine abuse and erratic behavior jeopardize the operation's future. Into this generational vacuum steps Brox. With a poet's facility with language and an essayist's talent for finding significance in the quotidian, she forges compelling narrative from the workaday: short passages, rarely longer than five or six paragraphs, read like self-contained prose poems and create a cyclical, almost timeless chronology (it's unclear if she spends one season or more on the farm). Her lithe, lyrical descriptions of the seasonal variation of land and work- -demanding and bone-tiring in summer; insular and quietly contemplative in winter--pay gratifying tribute to a vanishing way of life. Though she perceptively and eloquently observes the natural and the man-made worlds (``Pollen clots the hand-dug pone''), she avoids examining closely the conflicts that divide her family. The subtext of their strained dinner conversation is the suppressed anger of arguments carefully avoided but unresolved. It comes as no shock when Brox decides she's not her brother's keeper, that her life lies beyond the farm. This slim book's surprising strength accrues line by line in Brox's keen observation and spare, poetic prose.