Newcomer Morgan writes persuasively if unevenly about the southern Appalachians of North Carolina--in regional stories that range from the Civil War to the present-day lives of (mostly) poor whites and the infirm. Arranged chronologically, the collection begins with "A Brightness New and Welcoming," a moving story set in a Civil War prison camp following John through his last days of delirium as he lives on water and oatmeal and remembers his North Carolina hollow and his wife. "Pisgah," set in the Reconstruction, tells how a young impoverished boy whose father was killed in the war comes of age: he captures and then sells a fawn to buy goods for his mother and sister. "1916 Flood" lyrically captures another boy's loneliness and sense of mortality when he visits his mother's grave after 11 days of rain and comes across a drowned body. In "Crossties," three North Carolina men, traveling to Florida for work, have an accident that kills a man, and get thrown in jail as "organizers"--another evocative portrayal of a time and place that is not quite so tidy in its portrayal of character. The rest of the stories are contemporary: in the grotesque "Let No Man," a woman on her honeymoon at Myrtle Beach gets confronted with a husband who admits he "never developed"; in "The Lost State of Franklin," a soldier-buddy of a woman's dead ex-husband (Vietnam) visits her trailer-home only to be confronted with her jealous new husband; in "Bird Wars," a frail married couple try to deal tactfully with Timmy, a distant nephew who likes to kill birds; and "Blinding Daylight" is about a painter contemplating suicide. Regional slices-of-life that are exceptionally evocative of place--though their unrelieved sense of devastation finally becomes more overbearing than illuminating.