The great gift of these tales from Zimbabwe is their refusal to admit cultural barriers. Protagonists may be convinced of the magic properties of their lion-skin belts, their parents may burn the roots of plants for good luck, but here these rituals seem no more extraordinary than, say, masses for the dead or prayers offered to saints. Only modernization is exotic - Western education, European employers. Elders react to their children's defections from ancestral ways with a piercingly familiar mix of anger and compassion; the promise of "progress" entices and betrays youth into urban poverty. Neither tradition nor technology shields these characters--families disintegrate in the wake of marital infidelities; hardships drive brothers to alcoholism; lovers deceive one another. Mungoshi's exceptional achievement is compromised, however, by his periodic abandonment of the confident simplicity of his narration for spurts of poesy.