Nine idiosyncratic, moving stories from the author of, most recently, The Wisest Man in America (1995). In his first collection since Hyannis Boat (1989), Wetherell offers a number of deftly crafted variations on the struggles of parents and children to create a shared language--often in tales set among families living by choice or misfortune on the fringe of society. In ""The Road to the City,"" a boy, in the course of an absurd trip with his feckless father, tries desperately to penetrate the reasons for the man's increasingly manic behavior, while the frightened young boy in ""The Snow"" fights to find a way to help his embattled, isolated family survive a massive blizzard. In ""Natale's Hat,"" a grown man and his elderly, ailing, bitter father are caught up in a less lethal but nonetheless alarming tangle with nature while crossing Lake Como. ""In a Maritime Province"" traces the awkward attempts of a long-absent father and his disaffected 17-year-old daughter to comfort each other in the wake of a death. ""The Greatest Mayan Speller Extant"" is an exact, heartbreaking portrait of a young girl from South America exploited by a hustler attempting to cash in on her startling talent. And ""Those Who Cross,"" one of Wetherell's most audacious tales, is a fable set in a timeless rural past, describing in precise, beautifully modulated prose the manner in which a boy, fascinated by the river that flows past the family farm, becomes for a brief time a ferryman transporting the souls of the dead across the water. The title story, in which a man recollects the wonderful tales his exuberant grandfather once told him, is a lovely celebration of the ability of stories to stir, and transmit, something essential in our nature, an ability repeatedly on display here. A strong collection from one of the most ambitious and inventive writers working in the form.