Intensely dramatic, lyrically expressive and suffused with passionate feeling, the three novellas collected here demonstrate Cabot's concern that humanity has lost touch with the natural world. In the three decades since he published the highly praised novel, The Joshua Tree, Cabot has not lost his ability to harness theme to emotion, but new readers may find his insistent voice too highly charged. Told from multiple points of view, each novella looks back on lifetimes of stress and struggle. We meet the narrator of ""Breath of the Earth"" when he is a 13-year-old boy living in a desperately poor village on an Italian island whose soil, which once supported fig and olive trees and grape vines, is becoming as barren as modern life. Despite his laborious existence, as he matures, he finds that a harmony with nature sweetens the pain of survival. But developers and tourists, and his own son, are poised to destroy simple rural life. The image of the rodent under a conference table that concludes ""A Rat in the Boardroom"" is appropriate to Cabot's scathing tone as he flashes back through the life of a dying man whose ruthless business practices have also impoverished his son's soul. ""Touch of Dust"" returns to Italy, where the narrator, a reclusive artist, mourns the degradation of the natural world, ""a dreadful corruption... where each hope withered,"" but finally achieves redemptive insight in recollecting the people he has loved. Cabot's prose shimmers with poetic imagery as he recalls halcyon summer days and rugged landscapes, but one needs a certain tolerance for florid writing to fully enjoy these novellas. (Nov.) FYI: The first edition will consist of 1000 signed copies.