These 13 stories reveal Hemley ok?next sentence starts with In/pk as a mostly promising, occasionally disappointing, new talent. In the disturbing ``The Mouse Town,'' Danny and Mitch, ``the only kids at Pitman Elementary School with dead Dads,'' construct increasingly elaborate and dangerous tortures for Danny's pet mice. And in the provocative ``Installations,'' a Chicago El conductor takes up with a performance artist, and gradually erodes the boundaries between acting and reality. In these tales and several others, Hemley manages to capture, in a clever and compelling way, small quirky illuminations in the lives of ordinary people. Elsewhere, unfortunately, he gathers disparate elements into a trivial, unmemorable conglomerate where forced analogies abound: in ``Polish Luggage,'' the narrator's mother inappropriately blinks in the sun ``like someone who's just emerged from a cave after years of reclusiveness.'' When Hemley attempts a slick and trendy style, his work lacks substance and meaning. When he ventures further, readers sample stories that are true and brave. (Nov.)
These stories focus on ordinary people: a family attends a church pancake social; a college student works in an iron mill; a woman orchestrates her husband's wake. But Hemley twists his characters and circumstances well out of the ordinary, searching for what lies hidden beneath the surface. The sparse, taut prose uncovers just the essentials, revealing bizarre humor in situations where things are not what they seem. Hemley's people seek to understand their existential differences; they reconcile inequalities, exchange confidences, inherit heirlooms, seek relationships, and torture mice. Hemley faces reality with rare honesty, though his realism is somewhat schizophrenic. Suggested for larger collections. Ellen R. Cohen, Rockville, Md.