Dislocation, loneliness, and failure are the stuff of these 14 skillful, mostly humorless stories, almost all of which have appeared in small literary magazines (Bloodroot, Nimrod, Blueline, etc.). The lead-in title story pretty much sets the tone for this downbeat collection; in it, two disaffected siblings--one gay, the other divorced--reunite in Nebraska to sort out their recently deceased mother's negligible legacy. What they've actually inherited is their parents' niggardly and mean spirits, a malady that seems to afflict many of the failed parents and spouses who people Potter's drab fictions. There's the divorced woman of ""A Thin Place,"" who's ""decided that she will never be of deep personal interest to anyone again."" There's the misanthropic teacher at a failing prep-school who, in ""Viewing the Remains,"" visits her hometown only to remember a hated past. Domineering wives figure in ""A Short Vacation"" and ""A Private Space,"" the former concerning a widower who discovers freedom after his wife's death, and the latter involving a very much alive harridan who denies her normally quiescent husband his single moment of autonomy. In these tales of ""ingrained futility,"" many marriages are either ill-fated, as they are in ""Gypsies"" and ""Light Timber,"" or simply ""inappropriate,"" as they are in ""The Woman Who Would Not Stay Home"" and ""The Guests."" Especially pathetic are the lonely British woman who has no idea how little her lifelong correspondence means to her reluctant American pen-pal (""Pen Pals""), and the inadequate mother of ""Safe Home,"" whose wayward daughter dies a member of a bizarre religious cult. The best, most uncharacteristic story is an affectionate portrait of a bigamist in old age, an inveterate lover of women who's survived both wives (""The Bigamist""). Quiet desperation pervades these depressingly real stories in which bad faith menaces and blood ties are a burden.