The Weight of Winter

by Cathie Pelletier. Viking, $21.95. This is Ms. Pelle tier’s third novel about the village of Mattagash, Maine, which was founded by lumbermen who thought they were in Canada and which has been a bit out of kilter ever since. There is no shortage of action, both tragic and comic, in Mattagash, because the entire population is, through inbreeding or natural talent, a bit eccentric. The two local gossips are acidly drawn grotesques. The oldest living inhabitant, semiconscious in the local nursing home, dreams lyrically of the past. The story begins with the first snowfall in early November and ends around Thanksgiving, by which time the prospect of months of low temperatures and high drifts has set off a fine series of explosions. Ms. Pelletier writes exceptionally well and handles her large cast of characters with skill.