Largely forgettable short works by the acclaimed author of the Mexico-set Stones for Ibarra (published in 1984, when Doerr was 73) and Consider This, Seâ‚¬ora (1993). Doerr's restrained lyricism is reminiscent of M.F.K. Fisher and William Maxwell. Her limpid prose, masterfully varied in its rhythms, shows to best advantage in the two autobiographical reminiscences that open and close this volume. The title piece, undertaken at the urging of the author's middle-aged son (who's dying of cancer) and daughter, skims quickly over the particulars of a long life, but Doerr's assured control of tone persuades us of her deep involvement with her material. She can, for example, capture the whole sweep of a life in a single emotionally charged perception (""My son's first word was 'car,' and, as of two months ago, his doctor has forbidden him to drive""). And the concluding ""Edie: A Life"" movingly memorializes the lonely Englishwoman who raised a California widower's five young children. A section of ""First Work"" and another entitled ""Mexico"" collect what we may as well call Doerr's juvenilia: thinly developed alternative versions of materials from her two novels, in which the same images and narrative elements (the vaguely dishonest mozo employed by Americans living in Mexico, the roar of a lion in a nearby zoo) repeatedly recur. Many of the putative stories are really only gatherings of impressions, though ""The Local Train"" does offer a revealing portrayal of the sustaining power of Catholicism among Mexico's poor, and we do get to see Doerr's gift for the occasional odd, compelling juxtaposition (""At an Easter service, she suffered a severe muscle spasm at the beginning of the Apostles' Creed""). It seems fair to say that this fragile volume wasn't subjected to very rigorous editing, and that much of its content need not have been preserved.