This Jewish family saga--which shouts its message loud enough to deaden any possible subtleties of character or circumstance--begins in 1881 Odessa as Jacob Moisei, successful trader and shipper, converts to Christianity ""to rid himself of the most damning curse of his life""; by the last page, however, Jacob's two grandsons and their wives will be celebrating in Israel as the new state is declared in 1948. In between there are the repressed identity-conflicts of Jacob and the overt conscience-thrashing of son Alexandr--who announces he's Jewish, is dismissed from the university, and goes off to manage a railroad complex in an outlying hamlet. In Kiev Alexandr meets his future wife, Soybel, a beauty whose widowed mother has sacrificed much to put Soybel (who loves the good life) on the marriage market. The couple prospers, with son Grisha and daughter Daniella. But then come the revolution, pogroms, and politico-religious splits in the Jewish communities--and Soybel, estranged by Alexandr's plans to emigrate to Palestine, sleeps with rich-familied Vassili, becoming pregnant. Alexandr perishes in a rage, daughter Daniella becomes a Bolshevik, Soybel and her son by Vassili (who's now dead) nearly starve, reduced to servant status. But son Grisha marries Sara (whose mother was killed by Bolsheviks), joins mighty Jewish hero Misha Yaponchik's secret army to fight against both revolutionists and monarchists, and--after Misha's death--brings his scraps of family and friends to Palestine. Atrocities, declamatory speeches, and familiar postures from old saga scenarios--all of which exploit rather than illumine a tragic era.