May 09, 2005 12:00 PM

By Steve Almond

[STARS 3.5]

Almond is an incredibly seductive writer: A gifted storyteller, he hooks you on the first page and keeps the thrills coming. Author of last year’s Candyfreak, a quirky nonfiction hit in which he explored his obsession with Kit Kats and other kid faves, he captivates without attempting to be endearing; you can sink into his tales without being distracted by his craft.

In his second short story collection, Almond offers tales that explore the seemingly mundane along with the improbable. There’s a dreamlike dialogue between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass; a story about perverse sex, and a strangely tender tale in which a couple breakfasting with their son explain to his old roommate that their family is monitored by benevolent aliens. “Mrs. Wilkes and Jonathon and I, all of us, we feel a part of something larger,” the father explains. So delicate is Almond’s touch that the reader may feel envious of the three, with their tender spirits and otherworldly caretakers.


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