The Banyan Tree <\b>($25.95; Mar.; 384 pp.; 1-55970-511-6): Irish writer Nolan, a lifelong quadriplegic and mute whose struggles to be a part of the life around him and express himself were recorded in his prizewinning 1978 memoir Under the Eye of the Clock, has now, after 12 quite literally painstaking years, produced this spectacularly vivid and lyrical first novel. Its subject is an elderly woman's life alone on the farm she labors to maintain after her husband has died and their adult children long since left home. Minnie Humphreys is a marvelously observed character, and the language with which Nolan records both her daily tasks and her extended flights of memories of earlier times is charged with fresh metaphors (Minnie's ``cries . . . [go] cartwheeling around the room''), ingenious usages (``Sunday'' as a verb), and catapulting sensory impressions. Nolan's is essentially a sacramental view of even the humblest points at which the human, natural, and imagined worlds intersect (halfechoes—probably coincidental ones—of Gerard Manley Hopkins's poems are frequently heard in his tumbling sentences), and his first fiction offers the exhilaration and instruction of viewing ``everyday'' things from an utterly fresh perspective. A triumph, it goes without saying—and a work of truly individual genius.