Books: The Chastened American

A SINGLE PEBBLE (181 pp.)—John Hersey—Knopf ($3).

The clash of strong cultures is likely to be a god-eat-god affair. Each may conceive the other as strange, wrongheaded, downright wicked. An individual caught up in such a conflict sees himself as a missioner to the heathen, clad in the righteous armor of the sole truth, his own. In this compact novel of grace and distinction, John (Hiroshima, The Wall) Hersey captures the essential pathos of such culture struggles, seeing them as encounters between two goods rather than between good and evil. In A Single Pebble, a story set against the backdrop of the...