It's 1932 in Ashlymine, Pa., where the Polish coal miners are generally in debt to the Jewish merchants, and Hershy Marks, a merchant's son, regularly wrestles with the absolutes--where do you go for justice, why can't everyone have the same religion? Also, centrally, did the Jews kill Christ, as blond hero Lorsh Jabieski wants Hershy to admit. In these episodic chapters covering his twelfth year, Hershy emerges as another in that line-up of Jewish boys with pushy mothers in the background (""Eat!"") and cautious idealism up front. He's more attractive and less obsessively negative than most, and his schoolboy shenanigans have a brighter ring: he donates his piano lessons to his younger brother, watches an eclipse through smoked glass, and almost wins his mother a new bedroom suite by making a store window model laugh. But Holman is clearly after more than fun and games: Hershy's chronic pondering takes him through this Depression year (will his father's store survive?) right up to his Bar Mitzvah (which first the rabbi, then a cold, nearly sabotages). Although not as appealing as Slake's Limbo (1974), this has its finer moments.