Set in France during World War II, Kelby's debut novel is a luminous, harrowing tale of wartime horrors and miracles. When seven-year-old Marie Claire's village in France is bombed by the Germans, she survives by burying herself in the root cellar of her grandmother's house. Days later, Anne and Mother Xavier, two Belgian nuns working for the Resistance, rescue her and take her to their convent, near a town in which odd visions and minor miracles are everyday occurrences. Upon her arrival, even stranger things begin to happen: the girl gives off an odor of roses; light seems to emanate from her body; bruises emerge on her flesh. Intertwined with Marie Claire's story is the tale of a Nazi commander's doomed romance with Anne, and Mother Xavier's struggle to come to terms with the fact that her parents have been performing scientific experiments for the Germans. Striking, clear images give the novel a surreal cast: a room filled with doves; ants crawling over the hands of Anne's father, a chocolate maker, as he sits in the ruins of his bombed shop; or Marie Claire's feverish dream in which a mask maker who was her friend in life conducts a macabre puppet show beneath the destroyed village. Such flashes of sensual detail are made even more poignant when contrasted with the atrocities of the war, and Kelby's spare, elliptical prose effectively brings these moments to light, infusing the emotionally and spiritually loaded subject matter with an uncommon intimacy. Saints and Nazis may make strange bedfellows, but Kelby rises to the challenge with considerable command in a haunting debut that erodes the distinctions between waking and dreaming, faith and reason, life and death. Agent, Jo Fagan. (Apr. 4) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.