A fine collection of nine edgy, vivid stories, most of which appeared first in Canadian periodicals, by an Ottawa writer who has been hailed as ""the new Alice Munro."" Speak isn't quite that (nor does the old Alice Munro need replacing just yet, thank you), but her crisp, troubling portrayals of women discovering the worst about their families, their lovers, or themselves are distinguished by a terse, acerbic prose style and skillful deployment of well-chosen images. ""Stroke,"" for example, depicts a long-married woman's acquiescence to the loss of her husband within the wintry context created by an indifferent faraway daughter, a melting snowman, and a dying cherry tree. ""Eagle's Bride,"" examining the anger of a woman who loses her lover back to his determined wife, occurs on the edge of an Inuit settlement and makes striking use of the Eskimo legend that provides its title. Several of Speak's principal characters are women who sin more than they're sinned against: The title story's protagonist emulates her long-absent father by defying convention and welcoming ""the sin and the shame . . . as they seem to be what makes life worth living."" And Honora, in ""The View From Here,"" revenges herself on the family who exploit and ignore her, only to realize that, by failing to set a loving example, she has sealed her own grown daughter's tragic fate. Two stories are truly exceptional: ""Memorabilia,"" in which an aggrieved wife confronts her unfaithful husband, pushing him toward career- and life-changes that make a new man of him and remove her from his life; and ""Summer Sky: White Ship,"" the brutally realistic story of a woman who marries into a family of violent, petty-criminal men and can't shake off their influence or save herself for anything (or anyone) better. Strong, memorable stories that add scarred, exhausted flesh and blood to ""the sad statistics of the heart."" Alice Munro would surely approve.