In a riveting collection, Brooks presents vivid, convincing portraits of teen-agers experiencing the throes of first love, facing the death of a beloved old dog, muddling through but then achieving miracles in a single-parent family, and much more. When the narrator of "Running with Marry" breaks up with a perfectly lovable young man who has just hitchhiked 160 miles to be with her, help comes from an unexpected if loathed source--her father's latest girlfriend. "Waiting for the Carollers" offers a melting glimpse of a girl's grandmother in love and of her elderly beau's devotion to the present as well as to the past. Each enticing story opens with a remarkably rounded cast of characters poised at a pivotal moment, then releases them to behave, haplessly, in revelatory human ways. Fine writing, mature outlook--welcome.