A fine first collection takes a look at a part of America often overlooked--the contemporary lives and landscape of rural New England. Connor's overarching theme is the clash between the people who've lived in New England for generations and the vacationers and recent emigrants to the area, as that clash is played out along one stretch of rural road. In the long title story, for instance, the same tale of adultery and suicide is told from five points of view, with only the outsider, Puerto Rican immigrant Maria, able--much like Faulkner's Dilsey--to distance herself from the tragedy. Secret tragedies also underlie the majority of the remaining eight pieces--a dead child or brother, alcoholism, a dying parent. While Connor fields a variety of deftly drawn characters, all living or working along a stretch of Route 7, most of the stories are told in the first person, by a woman, often called Joan. In ""The Attic,"" Siobhan tells about an Irish family in decline; the plot offers a clever play on the title, used here to refer both to a part of a house and an area of Greece. The sense of reality that Connor's narrators lend to the more tragic stories can be quite poignant. Luckily, playful pieces like ""Devil's Fiddle,"" a supernatural tale in the vein of an updated, amusing ""Legend of Sleepy Hollow,"" or ""The Ten Joyful Mysteries of the One True Faith,"" about the children of lapsed Catholics tangling with Quebecois Baptists in Maine, ease the tension in a gathering that would otherwise be unrelievedly morose. A fresh and compelling debut.