These rich, intent stories by the winner of the National Book Award have the supra-reality of the bleak hours before dawn as Miss Oates' characters, taut with awareness, suffer the last turn on the wheel of love. For love--the "connection between men and women"--has betrayal in the fiber. And it is women who betray and kill and wound--cool, frightened women, oddly free in withdrawal, racked by guilt when possessed, and by the knowledge of approaching blight when love is demanded. "The men in my life are innocent and I am guilty because they love me and I am loved by them." Fathers are symbolically killed by lovers; husbands are actually and spiritually deserted; lovers fail at "connections"; and children wither at the responsibility of seeking obligatory love. Modern children raised in serene suburbs go mad; young girls are sought by demon lovers--one in a gold jalopy; another freaked out on dope; an eight-year-old commits suicide. And women fear the intrusions of erotic love--brute, unsafe, dirty, yet it is a "moral obligation" to accept the weight and the curse. Two young spinsters and a widow are intruded upon by the faceless, savage demands of threatening, anonymous lovers. Only women are personal, have names, but have no extensions to "we other children who are living alone, grown up, whose heads ring with the terrors of childhood." An impressive collection of twenty stories, most previously published, which brilliantly search for the mystic/mythic folk imperatives in female sexuality.