In this haunting debut, Bumas explores the defining of relationships and how the quality of human intimacy reveals much about the places we call home. All eight stories in this collection lend an ethereal element to situations that at first glance seem familiar, depicting men and women attracted and confused by friends and lovers and who find themselves equally lost in their given time and place. As the characters struggle with conflicts that range from forbidden sexual attraction to making a new best friend to unplanned pregnancy to expressing solidarity with Chinese students shortly before the uprising at Tiananmen Square, the question of where and how we live in Manhattan's East Village, a provincial Chinese city, and a conservative college campus become inextricably linked. Sometimes a story revolves around the importance of human relationship and demonstrates that without it, any possible connection to society at large, the psyche of the population, even culture and history and hope for the future, is thwarted. For example, a young Western scientist studying water quality in canals in Hangzhou, China, likes to think of this small city as a home she has come to know well; but when a Chinese co-worker she feels especially close to gets relocated for suspected sexual involvement with her, the customs, food, and the purposefulness of her work become inconceivably foreign (""Head in Fog on Water""). At other times, it is the success of a human relationship that makes an environment bearable: A gay man poses as his lesbian friend's fiancÃ‰ to get her through a sticky family gathering (""Your Cordially Requested Presence""). Bumas woos with strong characters, wry tones, political complexity, and a unique voice. This collection doesn't bowl you over -- it gets under your skin.