Seven tales--most first published in the California Quarterly, Colorado Review, etc., and winners together of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction--explore a startling variety of unlikely romantic liaisons in various states of disrepair. In ``The Silent Partner,'' a voluble young virgin hooks up with a surly Vietnam vet; in ``Resurrection,'' a sheltered piano student becomes obsessed with his middle-aged music teacher, while in ``Second Coming,'' the same student, now a middle-aged teacher himself, inexplicably decides to marry the sunny-natured, small- town organist he's impregnated. In ``Mother Rocket,'' the rebellious niece of devout Jews is surprised and a little annoyed to realize she's happy at the prospect of giving birth; and in ``Lifelines,'' a fatherless teenager--longing for a beautiful life- -evades a pass made by her employer at the Dairy Queen. Grumbling about blabbermouths, disappointed by their partners' provincial clothes, drab surroundings, low aspirations, or poorly cooked meals, Ciresi's odd, isolated characters nevertheless know enough to be grateful for whatever moments of emotional satisfaction they stumble across. In the end, each wistful teenager and melancholy adult learns to turn away from tenacious dreams of life on a farm (``Dutch Wife'') or in a perfect marriage (``The End of the Season'') and accept the lesson Ciresi repeatedly offers--that a difficult body in bed is better than no body, and less than perfect beats nothing at all. Sharp-eyed, gently humorous fiction whose characters linger in the mind.