Nearing age 50, ""radical"" historian Kraft Means has one big and respected book under his belt, but the next one's in his craw and won't budge. He's been wood-shedding it, therefore, alone on his ramshackle Nova Scotia property, away from wife and kids, for a few months. Not much manuscript has piled up, however. Kraft's energy has instead gone into an affair with a local woman, Thea. And into an obsession with his dead father's journals--his father was close to a robber baron, standing for everything Kraft rejects, but in the ""ghost images"" of the old man's diaries, Kraft finds psychically significant data. (Or so novelist Minor intends; the why and wherefore are never made clear.) When wife Tammy, a lawyer herself, and the three kids do finally come up to join him, Kraft can't cope. Visitors--Kraft's editor and Tammy's sister--compound the difficulty. Booze becomes Kraft's safe haven, a haven shattered at the end of the book in a rage of nervous breakdown, violence, and erratic emotions. Minot ignores certain plot opportunities--like Tammy's relationship with Thea, who's hired to clean up the months' worth of mess that Kraft has accumulated--and concentrates instead on developing a gnawing, tortured Kraft-consciousness, with Kraft's psychic wounds oozing a little too readily. This relentlessness generates an undeniable power--the man, his muddle, and the love of the Nova Scotia landscape are all vividly etched--but it also makes Minot's second novel one of those books that has delivered almost all it has to offer when it's only half over.