Ordinary suburban people face family violence, sexual awakening, and death. While Rossi's characters may be directionless, they are never affectless: the consciousness is wry and always humane in this moving but too slender volume by the author of Athletes and Artists (1986--not reviewed). The title novella is an almost flawless study in sensibility. Five months after her father's death, narrator Marie Russo--in 17 brief chapters--lets her mind range over her past, starting with her first real experience of death and grief. Years earlier, a sudden heart attack took the husband of her co-worker Phyllis, and the tragedy turned Marie--a young woman then in her early 20s, still living with her parents--and Phyllis, a widowed mother near 40--into best friends. Spinning out from this central event, Marie's relationships with parents, brother, college boyfriend, husband (eventually ex-), and daughter are poignantly revealed. The charm of Rossi's fiction lies in its tender affirmations and disinclination to affix blame; throughout the novella, the author is insightful, delicate, sometimes funny, and in sure control. The six very short stories are less convincing, the voice is still appealing, but the characters pass by too quickly for their life-transitions to have great impact. Fiction by a genuine and welcome talent, but one must wonder at the rush to publish so slight a collection; with her clear vision and instinct for home-truths, Rossi seems clearly capable of better and more.