To have gone away and come back, been everywhere and gotten nowhere, is fate, an adult idea that adult fiction has infinite resources to deal with; not so Obed Taylor's slight account of his sevenyear odyssey from declining Nantucket to Milbury, Mass. to western Pennsylvania to Hays, Kansas to the Oklahoma Territory and back, trailing a frayed ribbon of a theme. If Father finds work, he'll succeed -- ""Any man who worked as hard as he did was sooner or later bound to""; but somehow or other nothing pans out, until at fifteen Obed realizes that ""he was a man who was doomed to do the wrong thing."" Obed could oppose him -- a liaison with Lennie, the girl with a penchant for ""mating,"" has given him a sense of self -- and he does, only to see his father shot down quite incidentally over thirty cents. He's right, it was not his fault; there is also, it would seem, no right thing to do; and perhaps it's fate again that Nantucket, when he and his mother return, is on the verge of recovery. That this is set in the 1880s is the initial discomfiture, Obed's manner of expression being current-colloquial, sometimes even modish (""freaky""); and throughout he ruminates dryly, quizzically, rather than being a youngster immersed. He is looking back, true, but his outlook lacks the elements of a story.