To quote from the author's preface, this collection about a girl who grew up in a white southern milieu of poverty and brutality and ""became the one who got away"" is ""not biography and yet not lies. . . [but] condensed and reinvented experience of a . . .working-class lesbian, addicted to violence, language and hope."" At college, on scholarship, Allison ""met the people I had always read about: girls whose fathers loved them--innocently; boys who drove cars they had not stolen."" Her strongest stories, including the wrenchingly painful ""River of Names,"" explore the intersection of her two worlds and show a narrator haunted by childhood memories of sudden death, unremitting yet casual violence, and bitter contained rage; she hides much of this past from her lovers, but it emerges in the form of lies, funny southern stories, an inability to love, a resort to wild sex (sometimes graphically described), alcohol and physical fights as distraction and escape. The result is an intimate glimpse into the tormented heart of a survivor. There's almost enough power here to make one want to overlook the weaknesses: most of the stories go on too long; the author, who has previously published poetry, sometimes chooses moments and ideas too small to satisfy as fiction; the slice-of-life stories that provide realistic portrayals of contemporary lesbian-feminist society are workmanlike but not compelling. Uneven, sometimes shocking fiction, then, from a writer of promise, beginning to claim her history and her voice.