``It was the summer we spent on the roof, spying on our neighbors across the street'': so begins the first of these nine stories about Jewish life on mythical North Main Street in Memphis, Tennessee. This story goes on to tell how the narrator and his teenaged buddies devise an elaborate scheme to proveor fatally disprovethat Moishe Purim, who for hours piously sways over an open scripture, is a Jewish saint, a lamed vovnik. In the title story, the narrator's stubborn father-in-law refuses to die until the Angel of Death carries him away, still kicking and trying to strike a bargain. Stern does for North Main what Mordecai Richler did for St. Urbain's Street, what Saul Bellow did for Chicago, and what Bernard Malamud did for New York: he makes it reel with life, humor, and, sometimes, wild outrageousness. Recommended. Marcia G. Fuchs, Guilford Free lib., Ct.