Right up there in the running for the most confusing book of the season, this puffy saga of two cousin-related families, the Katzes and the Cohens, dwindles down to a mere recitation of place names and life-stations, a frazzle of disembodied voices. The Katzes are the more spiritual of the two clans; they're doctors and humanitarians as compared with the Cohens' collection of world-beaters: furriers, shipping magnates, all-rightniks. From the east Bronx to the Grand Concourse to Brooklyn to Woodmere to Lawrence to Park Avenue, each better address adds on complication and troubles for the families, and Astrachan does suggest the never-ceasing tribal circle of death and mourning, a family's natural fugue. But although he tacks a cast of characters to the head of each section (""Joe Cohen, stiff-necked, the most successful of the Cohen brothers. Like them all he is a furrier. Married to Lily, his son is Marty""), all Astrachan has built is a Sort of aquarium which you stand before and watch without hope of ever identifying any but the biggest fishes. And matters are little helped by the prose, no matter how furiously felt it tries to be: ""That time was out of darkness as if the family, the Katzes and the Cohens, had, when it came to New York City, left behind in Russia and Poland not only pogroms, civil war, and hunger, but disease and death."" Fuzzy.