These dark, haunting stories mark a very strong debut and signal the emergence of a powerful and already mature voice. Each one of Canty's stories, which are set in the South and the West, gives the reader the feeling of looking in on some private, uncomfortable scene. These are moments of quiet desperation in lives that are slowly spinning out of control. Canty's world is populated by alcoholics, drifters, and lonely teenagers who are frequently trapped, often by self-destructive obsessions. ""This is what love means, I thought: the thing you can't walk away from,"" the narrator of ""Junk"" says as he tries to shed his wasted past in the form of his drug-addict former wife. In nice, quiet suburbia, a 15-yearold boy becomes sexually obsessed with his older, retarded neighbor in ""Pretty Judy."" In ""Blue Boy,"" a teenage lifeguard's longing for one of the older patrons of a rich country club ends in confusion and near-tragedy. And in the title story (the strongest of the ten, although they are all remarkably good), a woman sees her dead husband in the face of her boyfriend's brother, an irrational vision that leads to irrational acts. These stories explore what happens when seemingly normal facades are pried away to expose suppressed desires; and in Canty's brave fiction these longings are not just meditated on but, for better or for worse, brought to actuality. Canty compassionately handles his loaded subjects, and his prose is often unexpectedly breathtaking, reminiscent of Thom Jones, Denis Johnson, and Rick Bass. Like watching a series of natural disasters unfolding -- one is powerless to stop them and yet one feels compelled to stare at their destructive force and beauty.