Written in the lyrical tone of folklore, Valad s's accomplished debut novel evokes the atmosphere and history of Mexico. A legend of two lovers begins the volume: led astray by their passion, Suchipil and Nacapuli metamorphose into entwined amate trees and thereafter observe the lives of the villagers of Amatecalpa. From the middle of the Mexican Revolution in 1914 to the present day, many stories unfold under their watchful limbs, a litany of human endurance in spite of war, unrelenting poverty, political tyranny and injustice, accidents and illnesses--relieved here and there by kindness, charity and good luck. Like the amates, Valad s is omniscient but nonjudgmental in her observations of the sad, unfulfilled but stoic lives she chronicles. A poor village boy shows promise of becoming a doctor, but commits a murder in the name of family honor. The local priest recognizes injustices but never takes action and eventually dies alone and far from his beloved village. A successful businessman becomes increasingly estranged from his family until his only companion is his vicious dog. Valad s's prose shows the control and maturity of an experienced voice. The language is clear and lucid, the interlocking stories well thought out and paced. Yet as a multigenerational chronicle, the novel yearns for something raw, something rough, to break its polished surface. The resigned, tranquil tone hushes the passion that pulses in the characters and their plights. What could have been irresistibly fecund instead resists its own vibrancy. (Sept.) FYI: The Ash Tree imprint was created to publish the winner of WIN-WIN's First Novel project, which will be an annual competition. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.