This is a first novel of considerable power which deals with simple things in simple terms-- namely good and evil, life and death, and black and white. Elegiac in tone, sometimes elliptical in technique, words and images swarm and sometimes numb and while one wonders if Mr. Gass could have found a language not so dependent on obscenity, one can acknowledge its primal strength. Brackett Omensetter, a Negro, a ""wide and happy man,"" moves to a small Ohio town in an uncovered wagon, with his wife, his daughters, and a child to come which he knows will be a son. This is part of Omensetter's ""luck"" which will be seen in other ways; for instance he cures Henry Pimber's lockjaw. His luck, however, makes him even more of an alien figure--to the town doctor; and particularly to its Reverend Jethro Furber who, although he'd ""declared for God"" at an early age, has burned ever since. His mind is full of carnal furies and his heart is full of hate. And only after Henry Pimber hangs himself high up a tree ""like a trinket,"" and Omensetter's infant boy almost dies, and Omensetter is ""fortunate"" enough to escape blame, does the message become clear. Omensetter's luck is spelled love...Mr. Gass' short stories have had recognition and there is no question of the impact of his novel-- only a readership.