A first novel, Texas-set, about a young man who comes of age by way of his obsession with tornadoes, the cancerous death of his father, and a love affair with a Native American. What could be melodramatic in other hands, short-story writer and dramatist Hauptman (Big River, etc.) spins out into a fine heartland novel, evocative and moving. Burl Drennan returns to his hometown of Nortex (which is ``like a black hole'' where ``the force of gravity'' is too strong to resist) and lives in the Sands Motel after his rock band, a would-be ticket to the big time, dissolves. He gets a job working for the railroad and also experiences a twister of such force that it flattens the town: ``Nortex had finally made the national news.'' The force of the twister becomes a touchstone for Burl (and for the entire town), and he becomes addicted to twisters, even drives the range looking for them. Meanwhile, his father discovers that he has terminal cancer, though he fights it for a good long time before it takes him near the end of the novel, when one character, empathizing with Burl, says that ``It seems like everybody's getting it. They say it's something in the water.'' Before the close, though, in which Burl faces his fate and goes off to school to study meteorology, he becomes an amateur expert on storms (in part by finding a sort of guru, full of near-mystical information on funnels) and has an affair with Bebe Sanchez. Hauptman tells Burl's story against a backdrop of the town rebuilding itself, deftly incorporates religion, and otherwise makes nary a wrong move while meditating on fate and love before ending the narrative with a railroad wreck and its aftermath. This one is a find, conveying mystery and hard-edged wonder while evoking a Texas that will be difficult for readers to forget.