Playwright-novelist Keane movingly evokes the pervasive pettiness and prejudice of Irish rural life, blighting dreams and love, in the story of a young man who's destined for the priesthood but is nearly destroyed by gossip, family greed, and his own stubbornness. The story, set in one of those small Irish communities where the pubs outnumber everything else, is as much about an insidious national pathology as it is about the hard times of Eddie Drannaghy. Keane's Ireland is a country where, as ``husband and children took precedence, it was fashionable for overworked mothers to neglect themselves'' and ``where only the unemployed can afford to drink on a regular basis.'' A devout lad and a good student, Eddie has entered the local seminary. But the flesh is weak: He is seduced by a visiting cousin from the US, a tryst that's observed by his twin brothers. An anonymous note to the seminary president then gets Eddie expelled. In the years that follow, he works the family farm left by his father to the twins. Eventually, however, those two come under the influence of the greedy Mollie Cronane, owner of the local supermarket, who is anxious to marry off her own two (already pregnant) daughters and get more land in the bargain. Though the twins die before their weddings, Mollie is even more determined to get the Drannaghy farm for her family. But Eddie, now the legal owner, refuses to sell. He regards his ownership as a sacred trust, and Mollie's conspiracies, violent attacks, and malicious slander--he is accused of impregnating a teenager, who later commits suicide--do not deter him. Eddie stands firm, is exonerated, and at last, miraculously, finds love amidst the mayhem and meanness. Keane, an Irish storyteller in the best tradition (The Bodhran Makers, 1992, etc.), scants the blarney to tell a tale that resonates with truth and with compassion for a people trapped by poverty--both spiritual and temporal.