February 16, 2004 12:00 PM

By Jane McCafferty

SHORT STORIES

Ordinary people stumble toward transcendence in this set of stories linked to songs. McCafferty’s Northeasterners speak eloquently in twisted metaphors. They don’t intend to break the boundaries of their semimarginalized existences but wind up opening themselves “like you open the front door for the cat, just enough for the animal to slink through into the open air.” Backed by references to the music of Springsteen, the Shirelles and Trisha Yearwood, their struggles become an album of epiphanies.

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