Thomas, the child-protagonist of "The Issa Valley," is subject to both the contradictions of nature in this severe northern setting and sometimes enchanting, sometimes brutal timbre of village life. There are the deep pine and spruce forests, the grouse and the deer, and the hunter's gun. There is Magdalena, the beautiful mistress of the village priest, whose suicide unleashes her ghost to haunt the parish. There are also the loving grandparents with whom Thomas lives, who provide a balance of the not-quite-Dostoevskian devils that visit the villagers. In the end, Thomas is severed from his childhood and the Issa River, and leaves prepared for adventures beyond his valley. Poetic and richly imagined, "The Issa Valley" is a masterful work of fiction from one of our greatest living poets.