Gerhardt's children and grandchildren--centered here are four of the former and three of the latter--come from echt solid German Catholic stock with an oak-grained morality. They are ruinously bonded not only by blood but by anger and self-destructiveness. This of course lends the drive to this story, told with no particular chronology by one of the grandchildren, Garvin Fletcher, while his sister (actually his first cousin) lies dying of cancer as encysted as their family traits. Strangely enough the women come through much more clearly than the men but then they're the most afflicted: Teresa, ""unendurably emotional,"" who cracks up at one point; her sister Vivienne, more capricious, attractive, and indulged, who abandons her child Nora (the one with the carcinoma) to Teresa--Teresa who had always been the good one but not the loved one; and Sheila, Gerhardt's daughter by marriage, whose fifth child is an inert mass of cells. The tragedies don't seem quite as drastic while reading about them as they do in retrospect; Mundis, a sentimental/visceral writer, often pumps a little too hard and bleeds too openly but there's a consistency and sympathy which commits the reader to Gerhardt's children's irretrievable destinies.