The fourth volume in an annual series edited by Ravenel (also general editor of The Best American Short Stories)--with stories, by notables and newcomers alike, that range from powerful to maudlin, and mainly concern families and their sorrows. Lewis Nordan's ""A Hank of Hair, A Piece of Bone"" is a classic--an aptly metaphorical coming-of-age piece about a boy (turning ten) with an alcoholic father and an unhappy home who gets a tiny shovel and begins to dig. Kelly Cherry's ""Where She Was"" is a tender reminiscence of a mother's life in a Louisiana milltown. Bobble Ann Mason's offering, ""Wish,"" about an old man of 80 who visits with his sister and remembers lost love, is, as usual, a delicately chosen mosaic of status details. In ""Customs of the Country,"" Madison Smartt Bell's narrator movingly evokes a life out of control: her man arrested for drugs, child taken away after an accident, she finally smacks a neighbor (a wife-abuser) across the face with a frying pan and flees. Sandy Huss' ""Coupon for Blood,"" about several Flannery O'Connor grotesques aboard a bus, is richly and idiosyncratically comic (if also mannered). Of the others, there are Kurt Rheinheimer's ""Homes,"" a vivid portrait of a slick mobile-home salesman; Annette Sanford's ""Six White Horses,"" an effective twist on the traveling-salesman-courts-spinster plot; and Rick Bass' ""Wild Horses,"" mildly surreal, an affecting account of a woman's long passage from grief to love. Some, finally, are slight (Mark Richard's ""Strays""), derivative (Paula Sharp's ""Hot Springs""), or unremarkable. Like its western counterpart, The Best of the West (see Thomas, below), a limited but highly flavored collection.