In spite of periodic slumps into the hyper-familiar, stories from novelist Schumacher (The Body is Water, 1995) are also capable of ascending to the unusually intelligent, confident, and moving. Girlfriends in junior high find out--some--about the awe, mystery, and danger of sex when their new music teacher, Mr. Zinn, begins preying on one of them (""The Private Life of Robert Schumann""), and if the story's tone flirts with that of a girls' YA (12 and up), its ending and expertness in the telling rise much higher. The same is true of ""Levitation,"" a slumber-party story about glib-tongued girls picking on an ugly duckling--but with an ending that sips straight from the cup of the muse. ""Dummies""--two sisters and a retarded brother are taken in by an eccentric woman when their own mother is in the hospital--sure-footedly gains a momentum that fully earns its quietly philosophic ending (""Generally I have found that the future is useless. It doesn't help; at times it may as well not exist""). ""Dividing Madelyn"" is an amusing Eloise-like story of manners but not a deep one (a pre-puberty girl likes it better when her parents remain separate than when they reunite), while ""Infertility"" (about a childless couple) remains too cool to summon a reader's heart in spite of its mastery in detail. ""Rehoboth Beach,"" however, a summertime story of sisters coming of age (or failing to), sculpts entire lives and places without a misstep; ""Telling Uncle R"" does the same while winsomely scooping up big helpings of lost history; and the title story--a woman remembers her father--dares to present itself in a Q&A format and does so brilliantly. Tuning one moment into the frequency of Flannery O'Connor, another into that of J.D. Salinger, Schumacher nevertheless shows the rare true strength of a voice in fiction that could become its very own.