Hebald's first book consists of two short, unimpressive novels--one (Three Blind Mice) a story of obsession, the other (Clara Kleinschmidt) a memory story. In Three Blind Mice, the widower Henry, a poet orphaned by WW II who lives in the East Bronx, is obsessed with his daughter Elise. Enter Mada, a suicidal seductress with a husband 20 years her senior; she meets Henry and intervenes in his obsession, especially at a Christmas gathering, where a group of sophisticates psychoanalyze Henry. The story itself is sophisticated in its point-of-view changes and its lyrical images of desire, but things eventually fall apart, getting hurried and soapy. Elise leaves her possessive father to marry Jay; Henry catches pneumonia and dies; Mada and Jay run off together, though Jay eventually returns to Elise, who has survived abandonment sufficiently to close the novel with an image of independent trees (single roots and all that). In the second novel, Clara Kleinschmidt, elderly, lives in the New York slums. She eats plum-cake with Malachy Maloney, a mailman devoted to her, but most of the tale is made up of flashbacks. In the 1920's, she was involved in Yiddish theater; she finally quit, anguished, and, after studying the classics in Columbia's Ph.D. program, became a Latin teacher. Her affairs include one man with an atrociously rendered accent and a professor: "I loved a man who drooled." After an obsession with Noelle, a woman, she decides that reality "has always been hard for me," and, in the present, dies of cancer. We're never made to care enough for these people: the title story is technically accomplished but histrionic; Clara Kleinschmidt, while occasionally moving, is finally programmatic, uneven and sentimental.