A strenuously talky chronicle of a transcontinental, religious search brightened by sprinklings of humor, detailed African settings, and some sunbaked theological speculations. Here, a ``soft'' yeshiva student follows his scatty father into the desert- -and trouble--but finds some spiritual stability. Murray Orloff is the son of Charlie, who in middle-age opted for Orthodox Judaism--feeling, pragmatically, that discipline was a good thing--and eventually led his family to Israel. But Charlie is burdened with guilt about dumping brother Daniel from the family business way back in Massachusetts; and Daniel, meanwhile, divorces his wife and is now--horrors!--in Africa working as a handyman for a Baptist mission. So Charlie is off on another of his frantic quests--this time to find Daniel. Son Murray goes along. After miseries and mishaps, however, he gives up and goes off with the massive Harlan Fitzwater--a ``private dick'' working for the Nigerian government--leaving Charlie but intending to return. The detective (``Satan''), though, leads Murray to the sensual life and the ``quicksand of humanism, whose banner of tolerance had atrophied my soul.'' Murray will redeem himself, escape death twice, find Daniel (and, alas, locate Charlie for the last time), debate a Baptist minister, and bring Daniel back to the faith and Israel. For the general reader, a bit heavy on the parochial pedal, and there are times when one wishes Murray would shut up and smell the blooms of Africa. Still, for a first, hortatory novel, this has an appealing narrative bounce.