A good-natured but canny portrait of that tight little (10.8 square miles) offshore island, reluctantly a part of Rhode Island, whose population balloons from 450 to five or six thousand come summer. Williamson arrived in September after an impressive list through the rough waters of Narragansett Bay. From fall through spring, he boarded at the house of Bea Conley, w/dow of an Island fisherman, a plain-spoken free spirit and a member of the ""Great I AM Activity""--a religions cult of diverting complexity. Betimes he fished, made friends, attended meetings--from a small Baptist prayer gathering to the fraught town meetings, whose currents, as he describes them, are as intricate and potent as those in the Bay. Between the engaging diary entries--a day transporting bees, a session with a disgruntled new teacher (who calls the Island kids as wild as coots), choir practice and holiday dinners and evening parcheesi--there are historical inserts about various aspects of the Island's far and recent past. (Notable among them: several varieties of hassles and stand-offs between the Island, Rhode Island, and the federal government.) Williamson has also picked up anecdotes on seminal town feuds, local drinking (a popular sport ""requiring long hours of training""), and the baroque nature of the Budget; best of all though are the jokes at the ""offers"" (off-islanders') expense--for most, a lucrative thorn in the side. Williamson is obviously a convivial, adaptable sort, and he records those inbred quips and cranky seethings.