The Clearing : Before the Great War, Byron Aldridge had led a charmed life as heir apparent to a Pennsylvania timber empire, and as guide and idol to his younger brother. But he returned from France a different man, drifting away and finally disappearing altogether, until he is discovered working as a constable in a remote Louisiana sawmill. Here, surrounded by cypress swamps and snakes and alligators, men lead lives of backbreaking toil punctuated only by the brutal entertainments offered by the Sicilians who control the whiskey and card games and girls, and by the rough law meted out by Byron. His brother, assuming charge of the mill, struggles to understand him, even as their wives contend with their own hopes and disappointments, and the future grows fearsome for them all. The Clearing is a story of family, of what sustains people through loss, of establishing a community in the deepest wilderness and then defending it.