Feminists and bored housewives take note: Sheehan's inaugural volume makes Desperately Seeking Susan seem conservative and predictable. In the first story, the narrator bemoans the fact that, as a young woman schooled in ""pansyhood,"" she can't live a bohemian life in a New York City garret like Jack Kerouac did. By the final story, when a secretary headed for suburbia is faced with the possibility of a genuine on-the-road existence, she panics. In between these two tales lies a fictional map of a vast emptiness. In ""Belle's Sister,"" a waitress recalls being taken to a baseball game as a child: ""All afternoon I watched the space above the people, thinking that a home run ball would fly in my direction."" The narrator of ""Twin"" watches the ""hole where once was a brother"" and tries ""to patch it up with words."" These two quotes also describe Sheehan's creative process. She delights in achieving tension by alternating the focus between two characters, giving image-filled snapshots, stretching a taut plot out between white spaces where imagination takes over. Readers might find themselves lost between one paragraph and the next, but that's merely the author's way of putting us on a par with the characters. We're given clues: an unsent letter; the way a boy's face resembles that of his step-grandfather. Gradually, these fragmented lives begin to come together. Time flips between past and present; there's always a happy (or happier) childhood to look back on. Memories are absurd and idiosyncratic -- e.g., of parents who died in a tollhouse cookie baking accident. The reverberation of each story makes it difficult to read more than two or three at a sitting, and a few characters may be too crazed for readers to follow. These few flaws aside, we look forward to what this sardonic craftsman will next leave unsaid.