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This debut story collection from Canadian poet Malla (All Our Grandfathers Are Ghosts) is a disappointing assemblage of pieces from a writer who has not yet found his voice. The mishmash of styles ranges from nearly Victorian ("The Love Life of the Automaton Turk") to kitschy postmodern ("The Film We Made About Dads"). Several of the stories have undeniably empathetic characters, especially the nine-year-old girl who narrates "Pushing Oceans In and Pulling Oceans Out"; suffering from OCD, she lives with her mentally retarded brother and their single father, who masturbates to porn films after the children are in bed. At times, Malla's heavy-handedness feels cynical, as in "Respite," when the story's theme is literally delivered via a tossed wedding bouquet that lands squarely on the plate of the narrator's cranky and uninterested girlfriend. But even given so many of the pieces' dramatic premises, Malla chooses the road of obfuscation, too often denying the reader crucial information. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.