Stories that remain often disappointingly superficial, missing the bite of Thurm's novel Walking Distance (9187) and earlier stories (Floating, 1983). That love hangs by a slender thread is shown by the amusing opening piece, ""Lovers,"" in which three generations of love affairs (a daughter's, a mother's, a great-uncle's) are revealed as equally tenuous and shaky (""She would. . .press her ear against his heart, listening for secrets. Funny that you could live with someone for. . .years, and still be astonished at what he was really thinking""). As the book goes on, though, this tenuousness seems most often due to mere shallowness both of character and motive. In ""Sanctuary,"" a love affair between two men goes sour, but the drama is maddening and forced, not moving, given the pure meagerness of the love's origin: ""Andrew was older, twice divorced, and had a thick gray beard that Tuck found irresistible."" Neither lover in ""Leaving Johanna"" has substance enough to make their parting memorable, and the Brady Bunch tones and overly cute mannerisms of ""Squirrels"" (a divorcÃ‰e falls in love with the man who rids her attic of squirrels) simply cloy. Passion begins to seem more real in ""Flying"" (a woman's dentist-father disapproves of her upcoming marriage and sends a pathetic wedding present), but ""Snow-Child"" has trouble holding the gained ground (a divorced woman will never be able to trust her ex-husband). Characters in these stories suffer but seem incapable of thinking about why (in ""Away from the Heart,"" a man leaves his wife and new baby to run off with a girl of 20: ""These things happen,"" he explains), with the result that the narratives repeat themselves but get nowhere. Separations, divorces, abandonments occur and reoccur, but Tuck and Andrew and Cammy and Hallie, Delia, Tyler, Tammy and Russ and Harper, with their names and mannerisms that seem to come from the soaps, just don't get more real. Conventionalized work from an author whose shown skills could carry her far deeper.