A quiet, homely first collection that pays tribute to hardscrabble lives: the stories are sometimes transparent to a fault, with upbeat endings that seem a little forced, but mostly they're cleanly told and affecting. They are also stubbornly regional. In the best of the bunch--""Trip in a Summer Dress"" (Best American Short Stories, 1979)--a young woman takes a bus trip to be married, leaving behind an illegitimate son who has been reared to believe that his mother is his sister, his grandmother his mother. Almost as good is ""The Girls in Their Garden,"" a moving story about desertion: Liddy, the 12-year-old narrator, lives with her Mam (grandmother); she's too naive to realize that her mother, who visits with a lover, doesn't want her, and only a sentimental ending mars an otherwise subtle story. In ""Happy Birthday, Ed and Shirley ""--engaging but too folksy--a small-town couple measures their lives against those of a mythical couple they know only from a collection of old photographs. ""Living,"" about the marriage of Amos and Lura, is an affecting account of a seasonal passage to love and beyond; ""Twilight"" is a slice-of-life in which old Hans and Katerina, widower and widow, console each other comfortably and tastefully; in the backwoodsy ""Harvest,"" Mayda and Jeeter lose their son in a wreck: in ""Six White Horses,"" amusing but predictable, a salesman courts Lila. ""Limited Access"" is a deft character sketch, ""Signs of Habitation"" a careful story about regret, and ""Standing By"" a mother-daughter story about dentures that is filled with moments of quiet light. Finally, a paean to the persistence and endurance of small-town lives, sometimes psychologically acute, sometimes too predictable, but almost always honest.