A good many people felt a particular empathy for John Nichols' first novel, The Sterile Cuckoo, and his kookie Pookie Adams. This, sorry to say, faces the problem of trying again and perhaps too hard after succeeding at first. Not that Nichols' talent is lost in between so much as diffused. He is still a very natural writer and there are some scenes and touches which seem fresh on the page-- unrehearsed and unretouched. It just doesn't coalesce and it copes with too much-- too much quirkiness, too much unhappiness... The Wizard of Loneliness is ten year old Wendall, ""a pied piper, a savior... an understander of all things living."" When first seen he seems precociously equal to his self-image; he's also intractable and miserable. His mother had died (""I didn't like her anyway""), his father joined the Marines, the time is WW II, and he's been sent to stay with his grandparents in a small town in Vermont. There he is exposed to many woes: his grandfather's debts; his uncle and aunt's romantic troubles; Marty, the librarian, who is sick and wants to die; and Duffy, a returned war casualty, who may kill. By the end of the book Wendall has connected not only with all his family, but the town, and the world, and his grandfather's death is the final moment which opens the door to the childhood he has just about outgrown... It's catchy, sentimental stuff, only in spots.