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.