A difficult book to qualify, to place, but a first novel which is considerably more, and which has distinction in its subtlety of observation and emotionalism, in its style with a clear finish. It is the portrait of a village-Sangre de Cristo-one of the last strongholds of the Penitentes in the Southwest. The portrait is achieved through unconsecutive episodes in the lives of twenty odd villagers, unrelated in time and in matter, and seen through the eyes of John Fellows who spent his youth there. Much that is thwarted, perverse, incomplete in human relationships and failures is underlying -- Philip Carson, the wealthiest man, who could not win the love of a cold Englishman's daughter; Maxwell, the archaeologist, whose house is burned to the ground and who lives on there in increasing squalor; Elizabeth Bowen, who loved excitement and and men, and eventually married a young protege; Tonita, a young Navajo girl, who is raped; Marjorie Farmer, the gentle druggist's wife, who becomes pregnant by one of her lovers, is aborted and dies; Dorn, the Slav, a solitary; Juan, who follows the Penitente tradition, etc., and, centrally, John Fellows, whose mother dies in his boyhood, whose early romances peter out, and who cannot escape himself, his incapacity to feel, to participate, and his recognition of his own loneliness. Within the limitations of a deliberately imposed genre (and one which necessarily leaves much that is only half touched upon, and is, in that sense, unsatisfying), this is more than well done, aware, and moving. For discerning and sensitive readers.