A deeply emotional, intellectual, and literary examination of the Holocaust, framed through one man's journey to a small Polish town in which 2,000 Jews were executed by the Germans in 1941. Novelist Karlin (Lost Armies, not reviewed, etc.) took ``a self-imposed journey into the blurred space between memory, story and reality'' in the summer of 1993. The occasion was Karlin's visit to Kolno, a Polish town where his mother had lived before emigrating to this country--and the later scene of what Karlin aptly describes as ``a small, almost casual `action,' a tiny thread in the tapestry of murder.'' Karlin uses this journey as a literary jumping-off point to chronicle his mother's life and times, his own experience as a Marine in Vietnam, and his postwar emotional upheavals. Jumping back and forth in time, Karlin also weaves into this narrative a meditation on the literature of the Vietnam War as it's been practiced by veterans of that conflict--both American and Vietnamese--and an examination of the American massacre of Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. The ``rumors'' of the title refers to Karlin's mother's family stories, which, he says, ``grew from the real world'' but also ``were like dreams or rumors, their codes locked in her own references and memories, more riddles than guides.'' Karlin retells those stories and then fashions them into dreamlike fictional tales that he inserts among the book's more orderly and essaylike narrative chapters. There are several references to ``stones,'' including those customarily placed atop gravestones by Jews and the ground-up gravestones used by the Germans to pave the roads at the Treblinka death camp. The literary ``rumors'' chapters are sometimes slightly disconcerting, but they are as powerfully evoked and as emotionally penetrating as are the reportorial sections. A deft melding of disparate narratives, forming a unique and valuable addition to the literature of the Holocaust.