by Cathryn Conroy (Gaithersburg, Maryland): This literary collection of short stories by Maggie Shipstead should win an award for diversity of settings. The 10 stories take place on a Montana dude ranch, a Midwestern college, Paris, a small California town off the Pacific Coast Highway, the backroads of Eastern Europe, an Olympic Village, the economy section of an airplane, a small Irish village overlooking the North Atlantic, an atoll in the Pacific Ocean, and a secluded mansion on an unfinished, uninhabited ski resort.

And each story is as diverse as the settings with fresh characters and surprising plots. They all share a common theme: the dynamics of sexual power.

Some of my favorites: • “The Cowboy Tango” is the story of the consequences and heartbreak of unrequited love.

• “Angel Lust” is the story of a thrice-married man who takes his two teenage daughters with him to clean out his deceased father’s home where the angst and anguish of all three of their lives comes to the forefront.

• “La Moretta” takes place in 1974 and tells the story of newlyweds Bill and Lyla while they are on a two-month honeymoon on the backroads of Eastern Europe. The plot devices are brilliant, and the ending is shocking. I think this is the best of all 10 stories.

While each of the stories is edgy and in its own way idiosyncratic, each is also a study of human nature in a mundane place and time—until suddenly the mundane becomes bizarre, tragic, shocking, or outlandish. None is to be taken lightly. While almost all of them are dark and somber, there are occasional elements of light and humor—very occasional.

This is an ideal collection for someone who enjoys and deeply appreciates the short story genre.