One of the most difficult tasks a writer can assume is a book about the things on heaven and earth most of us have not dreamed of. Langguth has written a strong account of his attempt to immerse himself in Umbanda and Quimbanda (white and black magic) -- a marriage of Christianity and African ritual, the Brazilian equivalent of voodoo. Langguth went into the forests of the Bahia -- a place of small towns with no hot water, intermittent electricity, and no white man except himself. He lived there for nearly five months, observing the rituals at the terreiros (worship centers), finally asking for ""works"" to be performed by the gods through their agents -- the maes and pais de santo. The spirits, although summoned, do not come to possess him -- although a tryst with a woman he has met is granted. As for spiritual peace, it comes only at the end of his stay when he realizes that it is impossible -- for an American, anyway -- to go back in time. It is Langguth's total honesty that distinguishes his book, that of an over-rational mind trying to get in touch with mystery. This is also a travelogue through a strange country where a middle-class American can dispense money with the arbitrary powers of a god. He sleeps with the women, is investigated by the police, and talks to everybody -- and he records it all with humility and grace.