None of the ten stories in this second collection (the first, Secrets, did not appear here) has the odd, mysterious quality of MacLaverty's debut novel, Lamb (1980); but the best work here brings fresh, affecting specifics to familiar, timeless growing-up material. In ""My Dear Palestrina,"" a young lad slowly, reluctantly learns to love music from immigrant music-teacher Miss Schwartz--and is understandably confused when the whole town (including his own mum) suddenly turns against the music teacher, who is miserably, notoriously pregnant. In the title piece, another innocent boy wakes up to the reality of his sexy barmaid-mother's extracurricular life. And, in the brief ""Life Drawing,"" an artist-son sits by the deathbed of his ever-rejecting father. Another father/son exercise here works far less well, thanks to a melodramatic windup. And MacLaverty's attempts at downbeat slice-of-life sketches--overage hookers dispensing phone-sex, an abused wife who prostitutes herself to finance her escape, etc.--deliver only the mildest of ironies. Still MacLaverty--Belfast-born, Scotland-dwelling--remains a writer to watch, with a clear, unpretentious storytelling voice that pleases. . . even in such lightweight pieces as these.