First off, I have no idea how closely this book has anything to do with The Brothers Karamazov. My second biggest impression was that this sort of book was what I always hoped Sometimes a Great Notion had been like when my old boyfriend said it was his favorite book ever and then I read it and was unimpressed.
This is one of those epic family stories that watches the characters grow up, change, learn to forgive, get along, fight, get along again, and so forth. I am a sucker for those sorts of books. The family has six kids and this is narrated by kid number four. His Mom is deeply attached to the church, his Dad is a minor league pitcher who suffered a hand injury and now works at the mill. One of the best things about the book is that you watch the style of the narration changing as you watch the narrator age and mature. The book opens up basically being told to you by a child and when it ends, the child is now in his twenties. Duncan does an amazing job of creating believable voices and conflicts that cover a wide range of life experience. No one is truly evil and no one is truly right. The family comes apart and comes back together in many different ways. Most of the story is set in rural Oregon and so its strength as a Pacific Northwest novel is also impressive.