This debut collection of stories from a crackerjack craftsman lacks a coherent theme, almost as if D'Ambrosio had chosen a magic number (seven, in this case) of complete stories and decided to publish them when he reached it. That said, each of these stories, some of which appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and elsewhere, is excellent in its own right. D'Ambrosio consistently presents new ways of seeing familiar things. Sometimes the thematic fragmentation actually works to his advantage, forcing the reader to begin each tale with a clean slate, but more often it is disconcerting. In the poignant title story, a young boy is enlisted by his mother to walk a drunken guest home from a party, uncertain whether she is coming on to him Mrs. Robinsonstyle or not, and along the way he recalls the suicide of his father. In ``American Bullfrog,'' another confused young man hesitates to carve up his frog in freshman biology class and runs away from home--but lamely can think of nowhere to go beyond his buddy's house. There are also a few stories of vacant people unable to express their emotions. In ``Her Real Name,'' a man picks up a religious young woman working at an Illinois gas station who believes that her cancer is in remission due to an act of God. Separation is present here, too: ``Open House'' is narrated by one son in a large family whose parents are divorcing after a long, violent marriage and whose brother Jackie was a teenage junkie who killed himself. ``Lyricism'' has two sections: In the first, a man and woman visit Lake Placid on vacation in October; in the second, the man wanders alone on a January evening. Individually, these are imaginative stories, but they're linked by few common threads of theme, place, or literary structure.