Twelve stories and a novella from the Swedish author of Bathsheba (1989): set in an impoverished north Swedish countryside, the tales are satisfyingly dark and biblical, at their best making liberal use of folklore, fable, and grim peasant humor; the novella, the collection's centerpiece, is a powerful account of a family with Job-like faith. The title story concerns an old bachelor farmer in love with his cows; when he finds their rumps slashed mysteriously, he follows them and meets with the ghost of his evil father. A reconciliation follows--until finally they ""kept something like company together."" ""Tailor Molin"" is a dazzler about a humpbacked tailor who loses his wife and begins to sew words (often biblical) into wall hangings: by the time his wife returns to him, years later, he's become ""like a book of chronicles,"" a spiritual presence in his community. In ""The Biggest Words,"" an insomniac preacher, Filled with words of God (""The Spirit is like fermenting dough, he presses on me from all sides""), finds peace when 34-year-old Isabella Stenlund takes him to bed and ""gives herself to God."" In ""The Stump Grubber,"" a powerful fable, Jacob Lundmark does battle with a huge tree stump--because his beloved wife wants it gone--and dies in the process. The novella, ""The Way of a Serpent"" (written as an appeal to God), concerns Johnny, a man so trapped in a cycle of debt that his landlord, quoting Scripture, has his lustful way with several generations of Johnny's family (""That's how it is with debts,"" the landlord says, ""someone has to take them over""). Just when Johnny reaches the end of his patience, fate intervenes and the landlord is destroyed. A literary find, filled with Bergmanesque shadow-energy and somber biblical argument laced with harsh humor.