Thirteen domestic sketches, incidental and affectless indidivually, and diminished further by collection. While not as glib as Anne Beattie, Tallent (In Constant Flight and Museum Pieces) shares the same post-countercultural sensibility and a like obsession with young families in disarray. Divorce and adultery preoccupy Tallent's mostly female narrators, including the ""other woman"" speculating about her married boyfriend while riding with him in his pickup (""No One's a Mystery"") and the battered wife who beds her childhood sweet. heart while not-so-successfully hiding at his family's motel (""Two Ghosts of Us""). ""Migrants"" and ""Black Holes"" reveal the loneliness of two young girls whose mothers have left them with their fathers--the first, a teenager from Iowa, relocates to a god-forsaken area of Colorado with her father, a sprinkler salesman; the latter, a second grader, thinks her father wants to separate her from his new wife and baby. ""Grant of Easement,"" ""Sweet Disposition,"" and ""Favor"" follow a faithless wife and her carpenter husband as they approach a stingy neighbor for an easement before they buy a country house; then almost separate when she's appalled by another neighbor's cruelty to a horse; and finally seem to adjust when she finds herself pregnant and no longer bothered by her neighbors' rough ways. In ""The Fence Party"" and ""Hannah's Example,"" a pregnant Nicaraguan exile, married to a divorced mathematician, watches her husband flirt with other women at a fence-building party, then, later, fall in love again with his former wife, the blond and buxom mother of his teenage son. The remaining four stories concern an American couple who, with their four-year-old son, live in London for a year. Resenting her husband's decision to move, Kyra takes a lover, decides to give up her lover, spends one last night with her lover; and, then, on the plane home, decides to have another child. Indeed, most of Tallent's self-absorbed couples have kids in order to settle emotional dilemmas. Like their mostly Southwestern locales: arid and barren.