Eleven short stories, linked by poems, form a mosaic of youth into maturity and of roots for strength or weakness. The introspective touch quickens the tension of the relationship between a small white girl and a little colored boy; underlines a little girl's defection to her Amish upbringing; touches with tenderness a child's innocent understanding of grown-ups' problems. It carries through to a Southern girl's desire to be needed and focusses the bitter grief of the dissolution of a marriage. And against the destructive effect of a mentally warped wife, there is the fanciful tale of a living and dying alter ego, the magic of an everyday commonplace -- an accidental meeting with an old friend --, the unexpected capitulation to a stranger, and a new widow's acceptance of the will to live. The closing is the death of an old dog. A warm understanding of the rejections, the importance of security and assurance, the insularity of all humans and the exiles of loneliness add to the perceptiveness of the basic motivations. A sympathetic feminine collection.