Amado dips back into his encyclopedic knowledge of the local politics, religions, and sexual joie de vivre of his beloved Bahia in this tale of Catholicism subverted by spiritualism, of puritanism undone by joyous sap, of right-wing control undone by happy anarchy. Here, a holy statue of Saint Barbara of the Thunder is to arrive in the port city of Bahia--to be displayed in the local Museum of Sacred Art--but it never quite makes it: Before it can show up at the museum, Saint Barbara has turned herself into a live force. The main object of her ministrations is a young woman, Manela, cruelly shut up in a convent by her strict mother for the sin of having fallen in love with a dark-skinned young taxi-driver. Saint Barbara--as the voodoo goddess Yansan in this case--will have none of it, springing Manela so that she can naturally celebrate her love, while at the same time vexing the local corrupt bureaucrats and proving once again that Brazilian religion is a far more fluid state of affairs than any organized church chooses to see it as. A lot is scattershot, unsubtle, and creaky here--but Amado (The Golden Harvest, 1992, etc.) remains the preeminent chronicler of at least the idea of a joyful life--and as such never neglects the infectious freedom of spirit that gives all his work a happy valence.