Plowing through years of accumulated resentments and frustrations within a Vermont family, second-novelist Alberts (Tempting Fate, 1987) touches every grim aspect of backwoods New England reality as the offspring of a damaged marriage grow up in the shadow of their mistreatment as children. The Chartrains are in pitiful shape in the early '70s: Mom has cancer and sleeps all the time, Dad has a drinking problem and can't hold a job, and they live with their five kids in a half- finished house on land given them by her father. Dad has a heavy hand with the children as well, especially with his only son, Mitchell, who runs away to Maine as soon as he can, then joins the service. Eventually, he comes home, surviving on a series of short- term, undemanding jobs. Of Mitchell's sisters, daredevil Donna gets pregnant at 14 and has an abortion; Nancy, the youngest, barely escapes being sexually abused by Dad when Mom finally dies; Sally goes to live in Virginia but then returns, marries and divorces an abusive husband, and raises her two girls alone; Marsha, the oldest and most responsible, dies young, in an Easter accident caused by her drunken husband. Mitchell, meanwhile, has married and fathered three and begins making money in the '80s by dealing cocaine, but he gives it up when he finds himself addicted and increasingly abusive to his kids, like his father before him. He makes a fresh start with his family on the Maine coast, where he hosts a gathering with his sisters in an attempt to bring closure to their painful, discordant pasts. Drink, drugs, abuse, death, and redemption--it's all here, neatly packaged in a single generation of a hardscrabble family: The details are convincing enough, but unlike the novels of Carolyn Chute, the larger picture lacks the strength and breadth to transcend the commonplaces of a straightforward family chronicle.