A first collection of nine stories notable for a couple of fictions about the daughter of a preacher; otherwise, Williams offers a well-done but familiar mixture of stories about troubled marriages or the aftereffects of divorce. The first story, ``Afghanistan,'' concerns the disappearance of a sportswriter's wife after he tries, but fails, to admit an infidelity to her. ``Personal Testimony'' is a striking tale set in the early 60's about a preacher's daughter who writes, or ``handcrafts,'' testimonials for fellow campers at a Bible retreat before admitting her transgression at a big sawdust-and-Jesus tent revival attended by her father. ``Rescue the Perishing,'' likewise, takes a similar character and convincingly places her in the home of a transplanted New Yorker (and his adult son) whom she intends to save. The ensuing, and surprising, revelations are moving and brilliantly executed. Of the rest, the title story is a delicate portrait of a marriage under strain because the wife is in therapy related to past abuse: ``Women who have been abused may grow up to marry abusers,'' the therapist says in a joint session, and that idea becomes so real that the very fabric of the marriage is threatened. ``Sole Custody,'' also noteworthy, is about a divorced woman who flies to Chicago with the idea of kidnapping her ex- husband's young daughter because he has decided that that daughter is the reincarnation of Katie, who died of cancer and thus brought about the divorce; instead, the woman learns to reclaim her memories. The remaining stories are undistinguished takes on divorce. A debut collection, then, that delivers several gems among the paste.
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