A war veteran's smash-up, shake down and follow through in this earnest novel, often affecting but bare-boned in plot. Nick Cotton is fired from his job in a Chicago soap company, despised by his wife, doubted by his small son, whose face bore a scar as the result of Nick's drunken driving, pitied by his mistress in whose arms he forgot the shame and horror of his life. By chance his plane is grounded on Tarawa where as Company Commander in the Marines, he had committed moral suicide by refusing to face almost certain death on the reef. Flash-backs trace his breakdown since his discharge from the service, and a weatherbeaten, semi-retired Commander on the island calls up the past and suggests a reexamination of Nick's spiritual resources and the causes of his failure. War action which the author must have seen, and a problem we doubt got solved in the rapid flip-flop method of Nick's self-regeneration.