From Dublin-based Morrissy (Mother of Pearl, 1995), 15 stories that at their best sing with feeling, though the strain of artifice at other times threatens to damp the tone. Family life--especially the poor and crowded kind--comes alive in Morrissy's hands. In the title story, for example, a young woman tours Europe on money left by her father, but in spite of an episode of searing injustice that mars her travels, the story's most memorable passages hearken back to a home life where the girl was the youngest of 11 siblings (``a plate of potato cakes would nosedive to the table and there would be a spasm of outstretched arms''). The suffering of childhood--and the marks it can leave--affords some of the strongest moments here. ``Invisible Mending,'' for instance, is about a police inspector who's coolly ruthless in getting confessions: and in his childhood, the reader learns, was just the combination of good intentions and depraved injustices to create an adult both sadistic and poetically sensitive. Morrissey sometimes stretches for her stories, though, in ways that threaten to make method more visible than the story it tells--as in ``Divided Attention,'' about a woman so obsessed with an ex-lover's family life that she becomes a peeping Tom, or the predictable ``A Marriage of Convenience,'' about a tourist and an opportunistic local waiter. Some pieces tend toward thinness through being device-heavy, as in ``Plaque,'' where a marriage ends as dental work begins. But ``A Curse,'' although clumsy in its plot turns, does catch the true intensity and baffled passion of adolescence; and ``Agony Aunt,'' about sibling rivalry between grown sisters, hints powerfully at a terrible darkness in the very intimacies of daily life. Stories that are among the finest when at their best, then, though others haven't grown into their new skin, still shaking off the artifice and feel of the classroom.