About that title: experts disagree, citing no fewer than five possible sites. Anne, a human rights activist working in Burundi, finds the avowed source there disappointing, a slow trickle; whose version of the truth, she wonders, can be trusted? That's a vital question, because so many people in this ambitious and thoroughly absorbing first novel lie lie habitually, defensively, reflexively. Yet first novelist Stone's ability to create compelling characters is such that each time someone lies the reader is jolted. For Americans like Anne, innocence is a persistent condition. Anne believes her love for Jean-Pierre Bukimana, a member of the Burundi oligarchy, will enable the couple to transcend their cultural and racial differences; she believes no less ardently that given enough goodwill and infrastructure, peace can come to Burundi despite the epic Hutu-Tutsi conflict. As far as she is concerned, exigencies of the outside world will remain frozen indefinitely, for her family back in a Northern California apple orchard no less than for the ex-pats and Africans she works with. When she witnesses a postelection spasm of gruesome brutality, she is shaken to her core, yet she is unable to relinquish her belief, even as she joins her sisters in scoffing at their mother's need to read romance novels while enduring chemotherapy. Full of engaging parallels and paradoxes, the novel is an intricate study of family and tribal loyalty, and irrationality and its mirror image, rationalization.