Gordon's first short-story collection (some pieces have been previously published), again stressing her concern with the splintering impermanence of havens--home, transforming affections, love given and taken--in a threatening world. Many of the stories have to do with ""the silent isolation of the bright, undervalued child."" In the title story, a young boy is caught between the mutually repellent, corrosive legacies of two uprooted beings--a cultured Jewish convert to Catholicism and a bitter Polish housekeeper. Two tales deal with little girls' emergence from the trauma of fathers' deaths: one child returns to a ""normal"" childhood, thanks to moments with a slovenly adult who has long accepted death and defeat; the other girl, scorned as ""too goddamn sensitive,"" will smother the dead father's voice in a thick, defensive silence. In the three-part ""The Friends of the O'Reilleys,"" a crippled girl in the 1920's matures while a kitchen table doom-chorus of three Irish immigrant sisters sits in judgment, damning the life-giving, and leaving the girl, like kin before her, to die to life. In ""The Murderer Guest,"" a young girl intuits the inexplicable fact of violence and the fact that in the adult world, ""if someone wanted to do something so much, you would have to let them."" Lovers betray, violation is casual, and marriage encompasses many selves and stances. In ""Now I Am Married,"" five women speak, including a young mother in ""wonderful"" insulation from her husband: ""there's something sort of enormous and grey and cold about marriage."" Or there's marriage as ""an ancient relationship in a ruined age,"" with safety an ""act of the imagination."" In a few confessional meditative stories, Gordon speaks from the silences of her women and children of fear and love and danger, but more successful are her memorably peopled stories infused with a snapping idiom (of such as the O'Reilleys) and the thin little inner voices of children. A welcome collection from a popular novelist.