A first collection of stories, mostly portrayals of contemporary family life. The characters who move through the pieces here share an innocence that makes them often ill-at-ease in the world at large. The narrators are usually young women who view their powerlessness with as much resignation as regret: ""Deserters,"" for example, is a daughter's recollection of the troubles faced by her New Hampshire family after her father's death. With no asset but their house, they take in boarders--almost always single men--who become surrogate fathers to the families they rent from: One of these men, the most enigmatic, turns out to be an army deserter hiding out from the FBI. Remembrance of old love is a common theme as well: in ""That's No Way,"" Catherine meets ex-boyfriend Sam for dinner and recalls their time together in Washington, D.C., when they were young and idealistic, while ""The One With Heart"" portrays the ambivalent feelings of college-girl Margaret for the prosaic department-store boss who loves her and the callous graduate student whom she loves in turn. Parental dramas are also important: ""Everything Goes"" depicts the slow decline of an older husband whose wife has died. His daughter (whose own marriage has failed) moves in with him, but he eventually has to sell the house and decide which of his children he'll live with. And ""Dardis and Me"" concentrates on sibling relations: in this case, between London School of Economics student Dennis and his American sister Dardis, who comes to live with him in England after their parents have died. Well-crafted but unambitious, Mullen's stories will be easily overlooked, though they're a promising start all the same.