A debut collection from Canadian novelist Gowdy (Through the Green Valley, 1988) limns--with dark humor and wry compassion--the lives of those on the margins of normality. The stories here all share a common theme, echoed in the title--which comes from a poem, ``Necrophilia,'' by Frank O'Hara, that suggests ``it is better that someone loves them'': ``them'' being the dead, the physically and psychologically impaired. The title piece, narrated by a female necrophiliac and hearse driver who's been obsessed with the dead since childhood, makes her obsession no less palatable but, in the context, understandable: ``I have found no replacement for the torrid serenity of a cadaver, absorbing their energy, blazing it back out. Since that energy came from the act of life alchemizing into death, there's a possibility it was alchemical itself.'' In ``Body and Soul''--about Aunt Bea, a religious, elderly widow who provides a loving home for a brain- damaged little girl, abandoned by her mother--Gowdy accomplishes the rare feat of making goodness a compelling reality that is neither mawkish nor dull. In ``Sylvie,'' a young woman born with a set of extra hips and limbs is taken from the freak show where she works by a wealthy young doctor who's fallen in love with her--but she fears that after the surgery he suggests, she'll ``become somebody else.'' Other tales detail the anguish of a ``Two-headed Man''; the reactions of a woman who finds she's married a transsexual (``Flesh of My Flesh''); and the experience of a young mother who's lost her child in a grotesque accident (``Lizards''). Gowdy skillfully walks a fine line between sensationalism and sentimentality to give life and love to the feared and forgotten. An impressive accomplishment.