Nugent, whose stories have appeared in The New Yorker and Mademoiselle, as well as in The Best American Short Stories 1985 and other anthologies, opens a door in this first collection to a bleak world whose hopelessness weighs heavy at times, but whose characters linger in the memory. In the title story, a runaway girl struggles in the sexual grip of a possessive older woman; in ``Riding into Day,'' a young girl on a train with her parents agonizes through the twists and turns of their mutual resentment; in ``Abbatoir,'' a teenager abandoned by her mother chafes under her older brother's blundering, stifling protection. Nugent's stories, whether set on Manhattan's Upper West Side or in mid-American suburbia, share a landscape of despair in which adults coexist helplessly with their rage, abandoned children struggle to fend for themselves, and strangers prove manipulative or abusive or both. Nugent's greatest strength lies in her unusual supporting characters--the old, wheelchair-bound man in ``Another Country'' who spends his days following the voices of the tenants below him from room to room; the strange younger brother in ``At the End of My Life'' who torments his older sister with his antisocial behavior; even the pet cats in ``Minor Casualties'' that suddenly begin killing all the baby animals in the area--along with an unusual ability to evoke the squalor of life among the urban dispossessed. Her talent for revealing the unconscious intent behind every offhand gesture and casual remark transcends the few literary mannerisms that grow annoying with repetition (the casual forecasting of characters' fate in the middle of their tales; the frequent, uninspired connections drawn between sex and blood; the closing of the heroine's eyes at the end of a story), to make this uncompromising collection powerful and unforgettable as well. Weird, hypnotic, and highly promising.