Stookey (A Still and Woven Blue, not reviewed) obviously believes that slow and steady wins the race. This story of a Basque sheepherder named John Siloa and his relationship with his boss in Nevada builds to a snappy finish, but only after a painstaking start. Siloa is a man of very few words. When the African-American ranch foreman, Booker Goodman, first meets him in 1954 and asks where he is from, he answers, ``France.'' At the time, Goodman is the confidant of their boss, Kinsella, and Siloa develops a special relationship with Kinsella's grade-school-age daughter, Deirdre. When Goodman leaves the ranch, Siloa takes his place, spending almost every night in the library with Kinsella, who drinks and talks about his life. Here the action skips ahead ten years to 1964, but Stookey's decision to wait until halfway through the novel to begin developing a direct relationship between Siloa and Kinsella strains the narrative somewhat, since it's suggested from the beginning that this bond will be crucial. The boss becomes garrulous at their evening meetings and reveals a lot of information that helps Siloa (and the reader) piece together the clues about his past that were dropped earlier. After Kinsella arranges for Deirdre to start college in Vermont a year early because he disapproves of her boyfriend, Siloa senses a ``vague camaraderie'' developing between himself and the young woman. Finally, Kinsella's long-lost son appears and shakes things up. Stookey succeeds in utilizing the silent Siloa to carry his novel, and the second half gains narrative urgency from Kinsella's sense that he is losing his daughter and both men's aging, but a lot of patience is required to reach that point. Still, this work has much to recommend it, most notably the author's clear sense of the land and the tasks involved in working on it. John Wayne with a French accent.