Working in the tradition of Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner, the author of Dark of the Moon (not reviewed) finds her own, surprisingly fresh perspective. In these 14 stories, Daugharty illuminates changes in the lives of rural folk in the deep South, portraying with wise insight an array of skillfully drawn characters. They include a pistol- packing, fast-thinking single mama who defends her teenage daughters against rape (``Dogs in a Pack''); an elderly babysitter who discovers God has made her responsible for the infants in her charge (``Looking to Miss Sara''); a drained father who finally stands up to his game-playing daughter, who is ``without conscience and incapable of caring'' (``Nightshade''); a black seventh grader who learns about the ``power in silence'' when he is picked against his will to integrate a neighboring all-white school (``Making Beliefs''); and a ``white trash'' girl, expelled from school because of her mixed ancestry, who realizes her father hasn't burned down the courthouse to avenge her ``but to suit hisself'' (``Living Lessons''). These are not pretty stories about pretty people--as one woman says, ``Pretty don't count when you're going through the change''--but the possibility of redemption lies within each of them; ``framed against the heart of the sky, angel faces reeled in carousel colors of pewter and pink.'' The plots deftly unfold as we learn about the characters, whose personalities and motivations are always clear. Daugharty's considered, creative use of language is often astounding and enlightening. Sometimes, however, she treats too casually incidents on which relationships or their disintegration hinge, as when the father in ``Nightshade'' only briefly mentions his manipulative daughter's jilted black lover, whom he and his wife tended and buried after he died of a heroin overdose. Often grim, though not without periodic comic relief, Daugharty's pieces explore the vast range and complexity of human experience with fearlessness, honesty, and compassion.