Thirteen stories from the author of the novels Beggars and Choosers (1978) and These Latter Days (1985). Kalpakian casts a wide net here, providing a piece on Armenian immigrants in California (""The Land of Lucky Strike""); a pair of stories, set near the turn of the century, about a Mormon boy who will choose college over the strictures of his faith (""Senate in G Major""; ""And Departing Leave Behind Us""); a rather conventionally moralistic story (money can't replace love) about rich Jews who flee Mussolini but have unhappy lives in postwar America (""Hunters in the Fields of August""); a serio-comic story of a wacky, crazed Vietnam vet (""Veterans' Day""); and a handful of pieces, some more standardized than others, about marriages, affairs, deaths, and divorces. In ""Habits,"" two college roommates meet again at age 40 and reckon up their lives, revealing the truth that they mustn't let disappointments over failed loves keep them down. A tendency to the self-help moral, indeed, finds its way into the heart of a number of these stories, as in ""A Time Change,"" about a woman getting over a divorce; and shortcuts in plot at the expense of psychology create characters whose dimensions are thin sometimes nearly to disappearance, as with the unconvincingly brutish, affair-seeking husband in ""The Last Dream Before Waking,"" or his more wan counterpart, already divorced, in ""Youth in Asia."" The ambitious title story itself (the aftermath of the suicide of a once idolized ex-lover), as if prey to these same ills, careens wildly from moments of earnest psychological rigor into vast swamps of the purest soap, revealing itself to be a heartbeat away from the pulps. Stories, in all, with a considerable but deeply unreliable skill.