First published in Brazil 10 years ago, this is a sad, simple, lyrical novel about a poor family's dashed hopes when a favored son returns from the big city to commit suicide. The town of Junco--in the state of Bahia in rural Brazil--is a dusty, dirt-poor, primitive place--""the end of the world,"" according to the narrator, a young man named Totonhim. The hopes and dreams of everyone in the village lie in some way with Totonhim's brother Nelo, who left to become a success in fabled, far-off Sao Paulo. ""Your star brightened our dark nights,"" says Totonhim--but when Nelo finally returns, drunken and penniless, it's to hang himself. The rest of the novel (told partially from the points of view of Nelo's mother and father) shows the family trying to come to grips with this catastrophe--to come to grips, really, with what has always been the hopelessness and cruelty of their lives. By the day of Nelo's funeral, his deluded mother has decided to reiect his death completely--thinking Totonhim is Nelo--and Totonhim himself decides to follow in his brother's footsteps and leave Junco, even though he knew that the big city is only a shining illusion. At heart, a political novel, and a despairing one, at that, but uplifted by Torres' melodic prose and intimate knowledge of rural Brazil. This is the first of his three novels to be published in the US.