A first collection of nine stories in which much of what's presented is dramatically unearned or simply dreary: Flannery O'Connor Award-winner Lorenzo writes mostly about dyspeptic women who are constitutionally unhappy with their situations and especially with the men in their lives. In the title piece, narrator Eulene travels with her husband Julien to her mother's house on the ocean. By the end of the overlong chronicle, she realizes that her only life's purpose has been to hurt her mother's feelingsn—and attack her values—but along the way, she's also done a good job of jolting everyone else out of their ordinary routines: ``I guess I married you to get rid of sex,'' she tells Julien. Likewise, in ``Peripheral Vision,'' a 30-ish wife hits her husband—a lawyer who commutes to the city every day—drawing blood, and otherwise nurtures her ``seesaw of anger'' through some business with her car and the cops. In ``Unconfirmed Invitations,'' daughter Sophie spends page after tedious page telling her parents she's running away to New York City; her father, a genial drinker and philanderer, and her mother, a sneak thief, are far more patient with her than most readers will be. Only two stories, ``Two Piano Players'' and ``Something Almost Invisible,'' provide much in the way of dramatic situation, the former by giving two girls on the edge of puberty a chance to roam about a small town, and the latter by forcing the usual weltschmerz narrator to track down the owner of a dead dog and help dispose of it. ``The natural outcome of caring is grief,'' says one character, but much too often these stories substitute free- floating aggravation for drama to jump-start the plots: they end not with a bang but a yawn.
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