A lusty comic novel of life in Amado's coastal province of Bahia where songwriters, literary balladeers and plain folk have all fastened their faith in humanity on the legendary Tereza Batista, every macho's dreamboat--the whore with the heart of a madonna. Amado is one of the older generation of South American writers committed to a local realism--a spinner of gossipy yarns who obviously relishes the color, earthiness and diversity of Brazilian society. Tereza's fate is tangled with every sort of character from city and sertao, but solely dependent on the lovers and admirers who lay her and betray her. As for her heroic ""wars,"" her first great deed is the murder of the slaveowner who buys her from an aunt to deflower her before her thirteenth birthday. Subsequently, Tereza-of-the-many-nicknames saves the population from a smallpox epidemic and organizes the prostitutes' ""closed-basket"" strike. Amado pulls a happy ending out of his hat when her true love arrives at the church just in time to rescue her from a marriage of convenience. Whatever social criticism might be implicit in her plight is certainly blunted by the excessive number of honeyed sexual bouts. Expect nothing more than a festive amplification of a hand-me-down rich-little-poor-girl plot--indulgent and bawdy storytelling.