Ironic tales of life's limitations by a writer who died, at age 49, just a few months after the title story took first prize in the 1999 O. Henry Awards. It's that piece that establishes the collection's melancholy tone. A widowed nurse, Mary McDonald, patiently awaits her own death from metastasized cancer, until the spectral appearance of a stern nun, a hospital administrator she opposed during a bitter strike years ago. The nun bestows the faint praise she never gave in life and an absolution of sorts, allowing Mary to pass away peacefully at last. That's about all that Baida's characters hope for as they reflect upon their lives. The two elderly men in "Mr. Moth and Mr. Davenport" manage to cheat death temporarily by moving in together, looking after each other with the same tenderness as the woman they once both loved. In "No Place To Hide," perhaps the most original of these understated tales, a divorced, middle-aged man unwillingly acquires a help, the street-smart, down-and-out son of his mother's housekeeper. The uneasy arrangement ends only when the young man suggests turning the apartment into an upscale brothel and gets kicked out, brazenly swiping a baseball glove autographed by Joe DiMaggio as he goes through the door. There are several other stories in a similar vein.
In Baida's somber world, ordinary people struggle with the complex absurdities of urban life and generally lose—but with an odd grace, thanks to his thoughtful writing.