In a first novel set ""in a country in the Balkans,"" an 11-year-old girl suffers the loss of her parents, then lives through a series of brutal events. After her parents are swept away by a flooded bridge, Tanya tells herself that they will come back, and begins to bake muffins from her mother's recipe. Her efforts bring appreciative neighbors, then paying customers, then outlandishly jealous women from the village, who, Menick implies, think that their husbands are visiting Tanya too often. She trusts no one; when friendly Pavel suggests that the gypsies have mined her orchard, digging for buried money, Tanya knows that he is the one who has made the holes, damaging tree roots. She is under siege, real and emotional, for as she accepts that her parents are dead, she must face those who covet her farm and home. A knife-sharpener, Anton, is her only friend, but he ""borrows"" the village idiot, hoping that angry villagers will think the gypsies are behind the boy's disappearance, and murder them. With stiff dialogue and grotesque events--the bloody decapitation of a chicken, a barn-burning, the sharpener's attempted murder of Tanya, and his own gory death, a description of gangrene and amputation--driving the story more than character or plotting, this novel never meshes. It opens as a compelling and unusual story of a strongly delineated child survivor, then loses force as people's actions become staged and unbelievable.