Books: Parable of Yearning

THE BEAUTYFUL ONES ARE NOT YET BORN by Ayi Kwei Armah. 215 pages. Houghton Mifflin. $4.95.

In the world of the haves and the havenots, the real losers may be the half-haves. They are the ones who come close enough to the rainbow to count the stripes, the ones who are suckered into stretching out their arms toward the pot of gold they will never touch.

Ayi Kwei Armah, 28, is a young Ghanaian novelist whose heart breaks in a jerry-built hell of token down payments on infinite desires. The saving grace for readers is...