Nine stories by Canadian novelist Findley (The Wars, The Telling of Lies, Famous Last Words) that--while peopled with some bizarre characters who at times challenge believability--have an undeniable resonance, a lyrical bittersweetness. The title story is about a soldier who returns to his family following an act of cowardice during a WW II battle that claimed the lives of most of his comrades. Haunted by their deaths--and by the survivors who torment him--the war eats away at him, and he begins to destroy his family. Hardly new territory, but what makes the story compelling is the manner in which the young son, who must find courage of his own, narrates: ""Fathers cannot be cowards. That is impossible. . . No one had said he may never be kind again. No one had said he will try to kill your mother."" In ""Bragg and Minna"" and ""A Gift of Mercy,"" Findley presents a strange married couple: she is self-destructive, compulsive, giving, drinks continually, and takes in homeless folk she's found in the street; he is a fairly successful writer, calls himself a ""genetic homosexual,"" brings his male lover to live with them, and is fussy to the point of tedium. When they learn that Minna is dying of cancer, she sets off around the world with their severely handicapped daughter in search of ""someone as desperate as me to love her."" In ""Foxes,"" a reclusive scholar--the ""world's best known communications expert""--dons an ancient ceremonial mask and undergoes a metamorphosis--maybe. A bit too precious at times, but, still, wonderfully evocative, strange little tales.