In a second baggy collection of stories, Pesetsky (Stories Up to a Point; Midnight Sweets; etc.) both delights and disappoints: one group of interlinked pieces tells a quirky and affecting coming-of-age saga, while others are ragged and unconvincing. Many center on precocious Cissie and her brother Sylvester, with occasional forays into the lives of the Spacedons, a family of orphans. In the rambling "Foul Play," Cissie finds a lover in N.Y.C. by inventing (or elaborating upon) stories of her Wisconsin childhood. In "The Spacedons," a touching story, Sylvester--initiated into this adopted family of boisterous good cheer who "went around turning on lights"--experiences first tragic love with Athena Spacedon. In "Family Planning in Summer," a slice-of-life, Cissie gets pregnant twice as her graduate-student husband finishes his dissertation and her mother dies. All these are written nervously, obliquely, in a style that lies halfway between Grace Paley and J.D. Salinger. Meanwhile, the best stories in the sequence take the characters into the ambiguities of middle age: "The Survivors of Mrs. Spacedon." is a letter to Sylvester from Clement Spacedon, written when his mother died; the astute and moving "Penny and Willie" chronicles the bittersweet spiral of Sylvester's marriage and divorce; and the spry "Lists and Categories" effectively uses the structure of a psychological questionnaire to dramatize Cissie's own surreal marriage and family life. Other stories, though, either stretch the interlinked chronicle too thin (the title story) or fail to pull off an interesting concept ("Challenge," "Work Habits"). Altogether, then: a number of quaint, inventive explorations into the nature of family life--but marred by too much obliqueness and clutter.