Following a hiatus of more than 15 years, in which Marius wrote the acclaimed biography Thomas More (1984), he returns to fiction with a moving vision of race, religion, and progress in the Tennessee back-country during WW I and the 1920's. Worldly Paul Alexander arrives in remote Bourbonville to take a position as chemist for the local rail-car foundry, after having been severely wounded in battle while serving in the Belgian infantry. As a foreigner he immediately becomes an object of gossip and curiosity, as well as the center of deepening controversy when powerful rivals in town seek to win him over. A sensitive man of few words, he has to cope not only with ignorance and xenophobia but also with the shadows of his past--the comforting ghosts of his two best friends, killed in action beside him, and the family tragedy that swept him from a comfortable childhood in Greece to war-torn Belgium. He balances the respect of his domineering boss, Moreland Pinkerton, with the friendship of the powerful Ledbetter clan, who resent Pinkerton's disruption of traditional ways as he transformed the local swamp into his foundry, until the actions of a proud, well-informed, and black ex-soldier ignite a powder keg: a Klan lynching, a bloody strike, and Pinkerton's murder. Alexander is tapped to replace his boss and fully intends to leave soon, but marriage, a child, and a growing sense of belonging as years pass quietly mold him into a respected, permanent resident. An unusual, compelling immigrant's tale, vibrant in mingling present and past and redolent with personal and social history; the dramatic peaks are masterful and memorable, even if the fires burn low in the end.