By Megan Harlan
Updated January 19, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

When novelist Ann Hood’s father was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in 1996, she promptly flew to Chimayo, N.M., to fetch him some of its famous, curative ”miracle dirt.” This account of one woman’s search for the miraculous is so lucid, wry, and heartbreaking that even those of us who’d rather eat glass than watch Touched by an Angel can’t help but be moved. Cheerfully admitting that her belief in omens and potions, inherited from her old-world Italian-American clan, might strike many as superstitious, Hood affectingly explores the link between faith and family ties. And though her pilgrimages to Chartres and Italy meander, her spiritual quest to make sense of her father’s fatal illness is rendered with exceptional grace. A-