I want to be quite sufficient unto myself, like a tree, quietly rotting away."" Thus Coral Fairbrother, all of twenty four and the mother of three children of undetermined paternal origins, coolly dismisses everyone in the small Village which has made a pariah of her in an excess of Christian zealotry and cruelty. Her house has been declared a ""slum""; they have shot at her, stoned her and eventually set fire to it. Her rather misbegotten life is transfixed in short scenes and almost cinematic quick takes which never develop this beyond the thorny morality tale that it is. However Miss Mackay, a young writer (this is her third book) has au elliptical flair for description as well as an eye for the shabby grotesque, and young Coral, stubbornly defying poverty and Coventry, is a girl to remember even if the novel is no more substantial than her life or the rather scrappy technique applied--all shards and tatters.