Miss Laurence, author of A Jest of God (""Rachel, Rachel"") and other novels concerning the rambling course of hopes and affections, applies her unique hearthside intuitions to what is possibly an autobiographical tale of a family in eight short stories. Through the eyes of young Vanessa (most narratives take place when she is ten to twelve) the Canadian family is transformed from the impregnable citadel of childhood's trusting magnifications through inevitable diminishments to a wellspring of traits that ""proclaimed (themselves) in (the) veins"" and pulsed with stabbing shocks of love. Bear-like Grandfather, a pioneer who had walked one hundred miles to become a blacksmith, a store owner, and a builder of the Brick House, was angry, outrageously rude and ferocious. And Grandmother was an angel, whose pure goodness did not, perhaps, include tenderness. In the Brick House Vanessa's vigorous and loving mother, wise-cracking Aunt Edna cope conferring in the kitchen, suffering with guests under the volleys of Grandfather, and plotting in Edna's bedroom (sprayed with attar of roses to kill cigarette smoke). It is tile death of Vanessa's father--terrible, sudden, alien, like a shattered bird in the house--that seems to define for Vanessa the limits of human dreams. The stories roam hack and forth in chronological time and when a family's history is known, what remains is the ""respect for persons""--this author's specialty. A gentle commitment.