Tough-minded reports from the marital frontlines, by a writer with the keen eye of a reporter for the telling detail and apt metaphor. Kaplan’s first collection (a Flannery O’Connor Award winner) offers nine varied takes on the complexities of relationships. The powerful title story deals with a husband’s increasingly frantic attempts to come to grips with his wife’s breakdown; rarely in recent fiction has a writer caught so well the warring elements of affection, resentment, hope, and panic created when a spouse becomes incapable of self-sustainment. The husband here yearns to leave and at the same time feels deeply responsible; the burden both terrifies and exhilarates him, leaving him “kneeling on the edge of something . . . looking over a drop so sheer as to be unimaginable.” The woman narrator of “Dyaesthesia” is thrown into tumult by the need to cope with the results of a traffic accident in which her husband lost a hand and with the revelation that he was having an affair. Pain, she discovers, once known only in passing moments, has become a permanent resident in her life. All of Kaplan’s tales deal with relationships damaged or deformed by need or by the stubborn denial of failure. In “From Where We’ve Fallen,” a successful caterer, trying to avoid the fact that a grown son is a thief, lies to his wife and to a client, cruelly mistreats an employee, knowing that he can—t protect his son but can’t help himself from trying. “Claude Comes and Goes” traces the lingering effects on a longtime marriage when the wife’s former lover returns, mortally ill. Her husband is startled by Claude’s ability to evoke emotions in his wife that he himself can—t arouse. Claude’s arrival drives the husband to acknowledge how easily marriage can become more a pleasurable routine than sustaining bond, and how unknowable a loved one can remain. A precisely observant collection, unsparing, original, and resonant.