Picks and Pans Review: St. Agnes'stand

updated 07/18/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/18/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Tom Eidson

Beach Book of the Week

OKAY, SO LEATHERY COWBOY NAT Swanson (fleeing a posse across the New Mexican desert) and flinty old nun Sister Agnes (shepherding a passel of orphans) are right from central casting. And the tale of how they hook up and deal with an Apache attack is as straight as a Hollywood arrow. But public relations executive Eidson brings more to this lean, noteworthy first novel than a blend of Father Goose and Lonesome Dove (although Larry McMurtry is already at work on a screenplay).

Faith is the most powerful protagonist of this story. Sister Agnes believes Nat has been sent by God to save the children, and Nat bridles at playing angel, but by the end everyone has seen the light. Eidson's spare style and distaste for sentiment provide an added spiritual boost. (Putnam, $19.95)

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