This compilation of 36 tales, with eight never before published in book form and the remainder drawn from this prolific author's five story collections, starkly illuminates Beattie's strengths and limitations. Her spare, unfussy style, her pitch-perfect ear for the manner in which we really speak to one another, and her sharp analysis of the ways in which disaffection and loss deform relationships and character are all abundantly on display here. As in Beattie's novels (My Life, Starring Dara Falcon, 1997; Another You, 1995, etc.), the best of these tales (including "Where You'll Find Me," "Learning to Fall," and "Waiting") offer a unique portrait of American anomie; her characters know that they are lost, are desperate to make contact, but are also deeply wary of doing so--they are deeply hurting and hidden by turns. But Beattie walks a delicate line, and frequently her depiction of alienation becomes itself alienating, and her chill vision (as in, say, "Where You'll Find Me") becomes a bit too insistent and unvaried. At her best, Beattie is a perceptive and unsettling writer; at other times, her portraits seem formulaically downbeat and unpersuasive. Both versions are on display here.