A debut collection of ten stories that elegantly limns the power of the often innocent misunderstanding to wound the human heart. In settings that range from the US to Japan to his native Britain, Collins (Sachiko's Wedding, 1990) writes about men and women whose lives are changed, but not shattered, by seismic moments of revelation or insight. In one the most accomplished pieces here, ``A Floating World,'' a sheltered Japanese young woman, who had ``imagined her life was secure'' with husband Jun, learns on a holiday visit to Venice--an experience that becomes almost surreal as mistakes and muddles multiply in dizzying profusion to end in a frightening assault--``that nothing was certain, not her dreams, not her fears: for certainty itself had no more substance than the rainbow.'' Meanwhile, the homely housewife who spends her days working in the family fast-food shop mistakes the kindness of an elegant woman customer for love, and leaves her family--only to learn that her action ``wasn't a mistake, it was a misunderstanding, a slight misunderstanding,'' a semantic distinction that offers negligible comfort. In other stories, a famous sculptor kills himself in a remote Colorado canyon when he realizes that he's become ``a hollow place, containing only the echoes of what had once been there'' after the suicide of his lover (``The Snowman''); an unhappily married Japanese woman, once in love with a foreigner whom she regrets not confiding in, finds happiness in her son and her work as a part-time geisha (``Waka''); and Nick, a young British media celebrity in Japan, falls deeply in love with an art student, then learns that her family has promised her to another man (``A Blue Ribbon''). Not groundbreaking, but a welcome reminder of how much pleasure a well-told tale can still deliver. A most readable first collection.