A debut collection of 16 stories, all set among the dying patients of an Amarillo hospice, by Texas novelist Mojtabai (Called Out, 1994, etc.). The unity of place within this collection ensures a certain uniformity of theme as well, in the overwhelming presence of the dying. For the most part, however, Mojtabai's portraits are fascinating rather than depressing, and they succeed in bringing outsiders into the extremely foreign--for most of us--world of the hospice. Naturally enough, the action here is usually restrained, if not wholly interior: in ""Last Things,"" a terminally ill woman writes a series of farewell letters to relatives and friends, revealing the different sides of herself that she's shown to different people during her lifetime. ""I'm Still Here"" portrays a nurse's daily encounters with a dying woman who fades in and out of consciousness. Loneliness and domestic life are important themes: the cancer patient of ""Greyhound"" falls in love with a young girl he meets just briefly as he's traveling cross-country to see an oncologist in Los Angeles, while the young man in ""Air"" watches his father's slow decline from the same disease and the two sisters of ""At the Door"" come together to look after their dying mother. There are upbeat accounts as well: the patient in ""Spring Me"" actually checks out through the front door, while the granddaughter of a patient in ""Wedding"" gets married in the hospice chapel. Clearheaded, intelligent, and surprisingly uplifting: a valuable portrait of an unusual world.