Africa's natives caught in today's terrific tensions between paganism and Christianity, civilization and primitiveness emerge vividly in Father Thomas Calkins' novel Kisimusi. As a Servite Missionary in Zululand for the past eight years Father Calkins has evidently come to know, love and understand its people and their customs. Happily for his readers he is able to write about them with a clarifying insight which makes this a first-rate first novel. Kisimusi, a Zulu word meaning Christmas, is the name of the strikingly lovely heroine of the story. Converted to Catholicism at the Convent Mission school her quick intelligence helps her to win a caveted scholarship for nurses' training. Her family, however, still see in her only the number of cattle she will be worth when she marries. During a holiday visit to her native kraal she has a casual love affair which results in a very much unwanted pregnancy, and she is faced with the agonizing decision of having her child, or allowing the local witch doctor to abort her so that she can continue her education. Fortunately Father Calkins does not bow to the dictates of ""pious little old lady"" readers who may be shocked to find a priest treating this subject matter with honesty and realism. Rather he gives a timely, pertinent picture of Africa's younger, progressive generation locked in conflict with parents and relatives who cling to a heritage of sensuous dances, puberty rites, devil worship and witchcraft.