A haunting debut collection of 11 stories by New Zealand novelist Gunn (Rain, 1995), most of them portraying unhappy families on the run. ""It was a part of the country you forgot about until you were back in the middle of it."" From that opening line, Gunn makes her territory clear: the backwoods of New Zealand is the destination of most of her characters as they attempt to escape into the past. The usual protagonists are young mothers bailing out of bad marriages, like the heroine of ""Not That Much to Go On,"" who abandons her husband and takes her two daughters to live in her dead mother's house in the countryside. Eventually, the children find their mother's liberation as constricting as she found her marriage, and they become objects of pity for the locals as they fantasize about being reunited with their father in the city. The young couple of ""Everyone is Sleeping"" is just as malcontent: they go out to the country to visit the wife's childhood home and suddenly find themselves overcome by an inexplicable dread. The young waitress of ""Visitor"" also goes home to the country to visit her elderly aunt Eila and finds herself suddenly overwhelmed by the falsity of her sophisticated city life, while the son of ""The Meatyard,"" who agrees to house-sit his father's ranch, is worn down by boredom and resentment. The title story, a grown woman's recollections of her childhood in the country with her mother and sister, rounds out the collection with its portrait of the adult life of the daughter of the first story here. Grim, weird, and remarkably affecting: the sad nostalgia that permeates nearly every page (""I remember these certain days when everything was bright"") manages, in Gunn's hands, to become compelling rather than depressing, A small gem.