Neither Italian nor Austrian, the natives of the mountainous region of what is now northeastern Italy guard their own culture and patois and a history of ferocious autonomy. In this nostalgic memoir, Stern, who hails from this part of the world and writes in Italian, recounts the tale of a legendary peasant, Tonle Bintarn, whose life began in the late 19th century and ended just after WWI ravaged the region. Tonle first works as a smuggler between Italian- and Austrian-controlled areas. Apprehended and forced to flee, he becomes an itinerant peddler of iconographic prints, among other things, always returning furtively to his beloved homeland and family for the winter months. Stern recounts Tonle's story as if the hero had been a grandfather or neighbor; through descriptions of Tonle's shepherd lore, humble hearth and peasant wisdom, Stern tries to capture the vanishing customs of his native people. With the advent of WWI, which brings to the mountains such devastation as the battle of Mount Ortigara, ""everything was topsy-turvy,"" and the country Tonle once knew is blown apart forever. (June) FYI: Marlboro will publish Stern's WWII memoir, The Sergeant in the Snow, simultaneously with The Story of Tonle.