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Peopled by a handful of vulnerable yet resilient creative types, among them poets, musicians, teachers and artists, Canadian author Windley's accomplished story collection focuses on the domestic scene, examining how family, lovers and neighbors leave their indelible marks. Mostly centered on or near Vancouver Island, Windley's cagey moments of conflict deftly illuminate her narrators' capacity for both pettiness and grace. In "The Joy of Life," Alex finds herself living in the shadow of her best friend Dsire's idyllic life, but chances picking up the pieces when Dsire begins drifting from her husband and child. "Felt Skies" features a woman looking back on her connections with her strict mother and with her first adult lover, a much older man. Marisa of "Children's Games" moves into her lover's house and struggles to relate to his disagreeable, unpredictable son. Despite an abundance of similarly middle-class, introverted female characters, Windley keeps readers' attention with a fast pace and an eye for fresh details that make her efficient, achingly human dramas absorbing and sympathetic. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.