These 20 stories have little in common other than their appearance in The Massachusetts Review during its 27-year history. Mostly unknown writers, and others of modest reputation, contribute straightforward narratives of unequal merit, with a wide range of subjects. The strongest selections include those with an ethnic focus. Rosellen Brown's flawless tale of a dutiful Jewish son whose complacent sense of family history is disturbed while visiting his father in a nursing home lends its title to this anthology. And Jewishness defines both Bernice Ravin's ""Cabin Class to Pubjanica,"" in which an assimilated Jewish-American girl recalls a trip to her parents' native Poland just before the Nazis took power, and Ben Field's ""Three Sisters,"" in which three spinsterish daughters, assimilated in disparate ways, cope with their immigrant Orthodox parents. In Sherley Anne Williams' ""Tell Martha Not to Moan,"" a black, 18-year-old welfare mother of two tells of her mistreatment by her moody lover. And in Toni Cade Bambara's ""Mississippi Ham Rider,"" class eclipses race when a black writer travels South to interview and record a legendary blues singer. The peculiar ways of the South figure prominently in Tim Gautreaux's ""Just Turn Like a Gear,"" a darkly humorous account of a prisoner's execution, and his inadvertent executioner. Working people are the focus of two particularly powerful stories: Lloyd Zimpel's ""Ovenmen"" describes in sweat-inducing detail the human inferno encountered daily by oven-men at a foundry; and Gayle Whittier's ""Lost Time Accident"" is a girl's-eye-view of an industrial accident at her father's plant. Personal trauma gives shape to Jincy Willett's narrative of a rape victim (""Under the Bed"") and to William Loizeaux's ""Beside the Passaic,"" in which a couple slowly adjusts to their daughter's accidental death. Eric Wilson wonderfully evokes 50's complacency in ""The Axe, the Axe, the Axe,"" and John J. Clayton unerringly captures post-60's malaise in ""Cambridge is Sinking!"" Despite some dreadful metafictional forays and a few pointless conventional pieces, a collection that offers many unexpected delights.