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Ward's powerful first collection (after three novels) travels from Montana to Saudi Arabia, tackling love, terrorism and grave matters of the heart. In "The Stars Are Bright in Texas," Kimmy and Greg, days after losing a child, fly to Houston and tool around with a realtor, looking for a new home. In "The Way the Sky Changed," Casey, a literary agent and 9/11 widow, gets set up with Kent, who lost his wife on 9/11. They go antiquing and eat cheeseburgers, considering loss and filling another's shoes. The second half of the book includes six stories following a young woman named Lola's frantic search for herself. In one, her boyfriend leaves her for Miss Montana, and she finds solace with a bartender. In another, Lola becomes an "oil wife" in Saudi Arabia, where her growing fears of terrorism are leavened by thoughts of motherhood. We meet Lola's mother, Nan, a fading beauty now dependent on her hairdresser for companionship, and Lola's thrice-divorced father, Fred, with his "cigars and cheese-only diet" and ongoing search for true love. The way Ward balances ruefulness and hope is singularly impressive. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.