Bom Jesus is a cat, his village being Guajar†, deep in the Amazon basin of northwest Brazil. Guajar† is a village of the improbable--barely habitable if you have any fear of snakes, caimans, tarantulas, piranhas, jaguars, and the like (first- novelist Hill's best pages are spine-prickling descriptions of encounters with poisonous creatures)--but the village is inhabited all the same. Hill's portraiture includes a sketch of Paulo, an intrepid, poverty-struck peasant who goes searching in the jungle for giant monkeys--since to bring back the pelt of even one would support him and his family for a year. There's also ten-year-old Mariquinha, cruelly abused by her mother (who locks her up in a wardrobe after school, letting her out only at dinner time); and there's the story of sophisticated So Paulo-ite Adao, who moves to Guajar† and finds unlikely satisfaction as local prefect, as well as part-time curandero, a faith-healer. Hill writes in bright primitive hues much in keeping with the time-out-of-mindness of secreted Guajar†--local-color is everything here. Innocuous if never quite diverting.