The twelve stories in Kate Blackwell's debut collection illuminate the lives of men and women who appear as unremarkable as your next-door-neighbor until their lives explode quietly on the page. Her wry, often darkly funny voice describes the repressed underside of a range of middle-class characters living in the South. Blackwell's focus is elemental-on marriage, birth, death, and the entanglements of love at all ages-but her gift is to shine a light on these universal situations with such lucidity, it is as if one has never seen them before. In "My First Wedding," a twelve-year-old girl attends her cousin's Deep South wedding, where she discovers both mystery and disillusionment and, in the end, finds she's not immune to her family's myth of romantic love. In "Heartbeatland," when a young woman's husband dies suddenly, she refuses to sell his Jeep to an importuning gay neighbor. The more she clings to the Jeep-and to the memory of her beloved David-the more he becomes someone she doesn't recognize. In "Queen of the May," a former belle looks for ways to assuage her loneliness in her large new house in the empty Carolina sandhills.