This first novel--set among the rocky backwoods of the Adirondacks--attempts to make concrete the notion that those who pound a living out of dead land will go mad in the endeavor. Unfortunately, the book's three homely, dirt-farming brothers and their Indian friend carry the weight of an additional proposition: namely, that the grim compulsiveness and violence that come to them naturally are saner, or at least more appropriate to their condition, than the manicured conformity of most contemporary life. Thus the shadowy psychiatrists who pursue them through the mountains constantly teeter on the edge of pure allegory; so, too, the brothers' yearnings for escape are often given a symbolic content beyond their ability to be articulate, or the reader's ability to lend credence. But quite a few of their black-comic misadventures--while they're on their way to death, incarceration, or temporary sanity--are rendered with agility and a fine sense of narrative balance. One looks for better things from Thomas Glynn in the future.