With greater momentum than in his previous novels (A Family Gathering, The Horsemaster, Winter Journey), Broughton again burrows into the pits and caches of romantic/domestic relationships--this time exploring grief and renewal within a small Vermont family and the ""shivering consciousness"" of a young woman. The story opens as haunted young Julie reluctantly watches (at least in her hyperactive imagination) while her longtime lover Michael, a gentle sort ""who would rather not kill,"" finishes off a poisoned rat. And this initial image triggers Julie's memories of the death and violence in her past. She recalls her remote mother, in lawn chair and sun hat, wrists limp with blood and flies--a suicide when Julie was 13. She relives again and again the death, years later, of her writer-father Hob--whom brother Tim would always blame for their mother's death. ""All the people I thought were a part of me, connected by tacky strands. . . were separate, complete, and if they were so was I."" Later, too, violence seems to follow Julie through life. When she apprentices with a Vermont woodworker, he turns out to be a drunken wife-beater. (His pass at Julie, she eventually realizes, was ""a bewildered interface of two cultures."") Then comes the love-affair with older, divorced Michael, with Julie's love as well for Michael's 23-year-old daughter Melissa and his blind father Sheldon. But, while Julie is in Boston, young psychotic Leroy Haines bludgeons Melissa to death with a lead pipe. And when Leroy's abrasive sister Mindy makes an outrageous appearance at Melissa's funeral, insisting on her right to grieve too, Julie is led to examine Leroy's abused life. . . which leads her also to contemplate memories of estranged brother Tim. So finally, after a bizarre journey at gun-point (into Canada) and an overdue reconciliation with Tim (and the dead), Julie will help Michael to scatter Melissa's ashes on a mountain-top; death-sodden, she will now try to ""roll away the stone"" and find a new direction in the ""archeology of our past."" Still bogged down somewhat in Broughton's literary/psychological overkill, but his best fiction yet: a rigorous tracking of that erratic muffled love which can revive someone who's caught in ""the immense boredom of grief.