A story of inversion -- of a dying industry some hundred years ago -- of twisted lives, in a holding and more than promising first novel. The setting is Nantucket; the central characters Jabes Folger, sadistic, violent, perverted whaling captain and Piety, the Quaker wife he married in a soft moment. She is -- in her way -- as hard and unrelenting as he, and this is the story of the conflict between them -- and impact on the lives of those with whom they come in contact, -- their children, the cool, hard son, Luke, and the passionate daughter, Saffron, and Shrine, half-breed girl, first Jabes mistress, later -- hating him for the death of her Portugese love -- mistress of his son. And throughout the story, the prying curiosity of Konish, the old unt, as to what changed Jabes from a lovable boy to a cruel man. The plot is loosely constructed, with no really sympathetic character and slight motivation -- but the picture of the times and of Nantucket, as whaling industry collapsed, is very well done.