Life, ""perishable, frail, imperfect, loved,"" courses through this long, complex quest for individual identity which is also an allegory of reconciliation. Maris, thirteen, mousey hair, variously discontent, is lying in her private sandy hollow when the stone that her dog Scuro dislodges rouses her, absorbs her into itself, and transports her to another world. Scuro is gone, but the beetle that he had been chasing awaits, now grown as big as a dog, and insists that she follow him: she is needed. During the sometimes awesome, sometimes terrifying episodes that very gradually reveal the nature of their mission, Maris and Exi (the beetle) are joined by other energetic beetles, a placid caterpillar who becomes a butterfly, a selfless red ant, a roguish gopher, a sorcerer of a spider, and other creatures all larger than life-size; a boy, Jetsam, native of nowhere, is one of the last to appear. They were chosen because they are willing to try; they are successful because they come to believe in themselves, in choosing. When the threatening Beasts have been captured and the last tests passed, the company emerges at last on the mountaintop which is the Place of Them, and Maris is ready to see Them because she can see herself straight on.... A pellucid style sustains the intricate story as vision and pierces the metaphysics; imagination contributes; beauty and wisdom are the consequences. But the reader must believe.