A strong first collection (half of the two-book debut that includes Knight’s novel Divining Rod, to be reviewed in our next issue) offers ten unflinchingly realistic and inventive studies of the compulsive bonding of incompatible people and, most interestingly, the mysterious symbiosis between humans and animals. Even the more conventional stories’such as a child’s-eye view of adult infidelity and instability (“Amelia Earhart’s Coat”) and the complex indirect characterization of a married teacher not quite lured into his neighbors’ orbit of incessant partying and casual sex (“Sundays”)—resonate with this volume’s distinctive emphasis on hesitant personal voyages into unfamiliar emotional territories. The beneficiaries and victims of these adventures include a widowed father and his teenaged son whose separate obsessions with a beautiful (and frequently naked) next-door neighbor subtly alter their mutual dependency (in “Now You See Her”), and another teenager working on a welding crew alongside co-workers whose crotchets and obsessions he only dimly understands (“Gerald’s Monkey”: a truly enigmatic tale, powered by some very disturbing sexual undercurrents). “A Bad Man, So Pretty” vividly delineates the uncomfortable intimacy between its young narrator (“the good kid” in his family) and his trouble-making older brother. It’s reminiscent of several of Peter Taylor’s stories about introverts who are disturbed and fascinated by the misbehavior of their more mercurial and dangerous counterparts. And Knight’s most intriguing pieces boldly dramatize the changes wrought by creatures that seemingly function as guides, or instructors leading people onto new levels of experience or understanding: a young man’s sense of his own vulnerability is stimulated by the dog he “inherits” after his landlady dies in a fire, perhaps deliberately set (“Tenant”); the ordeal of a skilled mosaic craftsman unable to hold together his piecemeal relationship with a vivacious independent woman (“Sleeping with My Dog”); and the superb title story’s revelation of a divorced loner’s closeness to his ex-wife and susceptibility to even tenuous and inconclusive emotional connection. Vivid and thought-provoking fiction from an impressive new talent.