Rhidian Brook, Author . Penguin $13 (200p) ISBN 978-0-14-200157-8

The youngest son of a Welsh farmer tries to deal with his parent's impending divorce by turning to faith healing in Brook's poignant first novel. Taliesin Jones is a quiet, introspective 11-year-old boy who immerses himself in the world of books to escape the harsh reality of his family's collapse when his mother leaves his father to live with her hairdresser. The boy's efforts prove problematic until he forms a connection with his piano teacher, an elderly former roofer named Billy who also dabbles in faith healing. Billy allows the boy to participate in the "cure" of an older woman with spinal problems, leading Jones to form a gang called the Believers, whose efforts are based on prayer and the laying on of hands. Their first candidate for a potential cure is an athletic but diabetic school chum, but the effort backfires when the boy's parents protest the healing and Taliesin is forced to "testify" about his beliefs at a class assembly. The result of that assembly is a connection with the class bully who had been Taliesin's nemesis, leading Jones to some small but important revelations abut his future and his potential gift. The plotting is decidedly on the spare side, but Brook writes eloquently about the pain of a family about to fall apart, and he also does some graceful, understated work in bringing to life his smalltown characters. The coming-of-age story isn't new, but the combination of a well-drawn protagonist and Brook's ability to bring a unique community to life bode well for his literary future. (Jan.)

Forecast:The film version of Brook's novel has been getting rave reviews on the festival circuit. If it takes off in the U.S. when it opens, expect strong sales; otherwise, this may get lost among similar coming-of-age stories.

Reviewed on: 12/10/2001
Release date: 12/01/2001
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