A poet's first novel of a childhood in a remote, Polish village is rough, tender, primitive, and occasionally exalted, and is toned by the heavy heritage of superstition and faith and sorcery as they touch on Bronek, the youngest child of an aging woman. Bronek, ""a vowed child"", is dedicated to Saint Anthony after an illness and is dressed as a monk with a corded habit, and he is an uneasy recipient of both imprecations and mockeries. A barren woman tells him that his eyes are ""bewitched""- not evil; he witnesses and is susceptible to a mystic ceremonial; and he soils his habit when he steals tobacco for his teacher. The three year term of his dedication ends, and his mother wastes away- with a cancerous growth which he believes is connected with his birth. He goes to the witch woman, and then the midwife, to try and save her, but it is finally his uncle who tells him the truth and exorcises his guilt at his mother's death.... A strange book which is not without occasional power but which may well be alien to an American audience.