This First, slight novel (Vivante, a short story writer, has appeared regularly in the New Yorker for several years) is a rather gentle nativity story which, until the close, drifts, and dissolves in occasional scenes. Many of them, particularly the opening Italian landscapes, have a sensuous prettiness which frame the softspoken story.... Cosimo is a doctor--actually more interested in writing to which he devotes most of his time in between a rather bedraggled practice of peasants, veterans, tourists in Rome. One of them is Jessie Reynolds, from Boston, and he falls in love with her--perhaps not very strongly until circumstances force him to marry her. The child to come however is stillborn--deformed; Jessie is depressed; the months which follow are enervating, exacerbating. Finally the second Child ""a daughter and a goodly babe, lusty and like to live"" affirms the message here. Until then, Cosimo and Jessie, not so much at odds as at loose ends, have given the book something of their uncertain character. The writing however shows both ease and grace.