Lehane covers some of the same ground as Sam Shepard in this anthology: Damaged souls, usually male, further damage themselves and their loved ones. People make boneheaded decisions, get hurt, mess up, search for meaning and pass out. But Lehane has moved out of his comfort zone of Boston to pen a whole passel of sad sacks and losers who reside elsewhere in the United States. His short stories, while often unblinkingly bleak, are corrosive and brilliant.

Most of the five stories and one play hit the mark. "Running Out of Dog" conveys small-town desperation and an aching love. "ICU" is a paranoid, post-9/11 nightmare (and an amusing play on words). "Gone Down to Corpus" perfectly captures teenage rampage and longing circa 1970 but ends limply. "Mushrooms" reads like an experiment that didn't quite pan out, and "Until Gwen" and its play adaptation, "Coronado" end the anthology on a strong note.

After meeting the horrible father in "Until Gwen" and "Coronado," you'll be thankful for your own dad, whatever his faults. (MORROW, Sep., 224 pp., $24.95)
Reviewed by: 
Liz French