From the author of the American Book Award-winning Stones for Ibarra (1984): a novel that limns in lapidary prose a story of loss and renewal in a small Mexican village--a town transformed by Americans inadvertently ``into something more beautiful than it is.'' As in an old morality fable--without the moralizing--Doerr tells of four expatriates driven to seek refuge in a place so unfamiliar that its ``otherness'' will be the catalyst that restores them. When ``two irresolute Americans'' arrive in tiny Amapolas, set in the midst of a barren mesa, and together buy ten acres from the local grandee, the villagers observe them with curiosity and tolerance. But recently divorced artist Sue Ames and her unlikely business partner, Bud Loomis (on the run from the Arizona tax authorities), have different reasons for making the purchase: Sue hopes to live there forever, and Bud wants to restore his finances. Realizing, though, that they can't afford their houses unless they subdivide the land, they sell plots to the 79- year-old Ursula Bowles, a recent widow, who was born in Mexico and now wants to regain ``the brilliant patchwork of her never-ending past,'' and her twice-divorced daughter, Fran, who wants a house so that her Mexican lover can visit her. Over a period of five years, houses are built; droughts take their toll; locals in the Americans' employ prosper; and the four Americans begin to change: Sue realizes that she'd been too hasty in divorcing her husband; the now-dying Ursula accepts the loss of life and love (``an individual life is in the end nothing more than a stirring of air''); Fran, abandoned by her glamorous lover, meets a homely but dependable archaeologist; and Bud pays back his taxes and becomes a local benefactor. Wisdom and happiness prevail. A beautifully rendered novel in which the happy endings are more eloquent epiphanies than facile plot wrap-ups--and a second novel well worth the wait.