All of the relationships in the more substantial stories of this first collection reduce to Separate Flights, the closing piece, which only further serves to heighten the disconsolate tone of loving once but not enough--and finally not at all. Here the middle-aged wife and mother whose children have grown up and away from her along with her husband drinks the afternoons away erasing everything except a chance encounter with a man on a plane. Most of the participants learn this lesson of loss earlier on: the circumambient, uncoupled pair in ""We Don't Live Here Anymore""; the young marine who gets an indirect ""Dear John"" letter about his wife of a few months via his mother; the bare survivor in ""Going Under"" always looking for another ""life jacket,"" etc., etc. There are two shorter stories about a doctor who fails to save a child, and a young waitress' guilt over the electrocution of the black who raped her. These escape Dubus' besetting sin--the tendency to write his material into the ground--viz., ""If They Knew Yvonne"" in which a young man's carnal indulgences are never absolved in spite of his frequent round trips to the confession booth. Dubus writes easily enough, but what's to reclaim the familiarity of most of these experiences--such shortlived pleasure, longsuffered pain?