Subtitled A Museum of Home Life, the chief value of the book lies in its faithful reflection of the minutiae of details that form the background of Lee Beckham's story- and that of his mother, Nora, granddaughter of Rome Hanks of Pennell's earlier book, The History of Rome Hanks. The scene is Kansas, and the action- and time track-shift back and forth, until, by the end, the pieces fall into place and round out the story of Tom Beckham's daughter, Nora, ambitious, self-willed, possessive, and of her marriage to the somewhat ineffectual photographer, and of her son, Lee, who tells the story. It is a story that marks him as a weakling, complex in the elements that comprise his being, and of his brief and inglorious career in college, his initiation into the doubtfully termed ""art"" of sex. Only in the last quarter of the book does the author stray down the path of the libido, in most detailed and unpalatable fashion -- the result of an abortive attempt to break the silver cord. The story ends with the father's death and the son's return. A thinly plotted tale, which but for the earlier book, might have been by-passed, defined simply as a period piece, complete to the last detail of the oatmeal wall- paper era. A dull era- and frankly, for this reader anyhow, a dull book. It lacks the relief of brilliant passages which made Rome Hanks memorable.