In spite of periodic slumps into the hyper-familiar, stories from novelist Schumacher (The Body is Water, 1995) are also capable of ascending to the unusually intelligent, confident, and moving. Girlfriends in junior high find out--some--about the awe, mystery, and danger of sex when their new music teacher, Mr. Zinn, begins preying on one of them (``The Private Life of Robert Schumann''), and if the story's tone flirts with that of a girls' YA (12 and up), its ending and expertness in the telling rise much higher. The same is true of ``Levitation,'' a slumber-party story about glib-tongued girls picking on an ugly duckling--but with an ending that sips straight from the cup of the muse. ``Dummies''--two sisters and a retarded brother are taken in by an eccentric woman when their own mother is in the hospital--sure-footedly gains a momentum that fully earns its quietly philosophic ending (``Generally I have found that the future is useless. It doesn't help; at times it may as well not exist''). ``Dividing Madelyn'' is an amusing Eloise-like story of manners but not a deep one (a pre-puberty girl likes it better when her parents remain separate than when they reunite), while ``Infertility'' (about a childless couple) remains too cool to summon a reader's heart in spite of its mastery in detail. ``Rehoboth Beach,'' however, a summertime story of sisters coming of age (or failing to), sculpts entire lives and places without a misstep; ``Telling Uncle R'' does the same while winsomely scooping up big helpings of lost history; and the title story--a woman remembers her father--dares to present itself in a Q&A format and does so brilliantly. Tuning one moment into the frequency of Flannery O'Connor, another into that of J. D. Salinger, Schumacher nevertheless shows the rare true strength of a voice in fiction that could become its very own.