A. M. Homes, . . HarperCollins, $23.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16712-7

Homes's first collection since 1990's much-praised The Safety of Objects offers 11 sharply original portraits of domestic life: the distance between family members, the minor wars between friends and lovers. Written over the last decade, with several stories previously published in glossies and literary magazines, this volume confirms Homes's reputation as an expert stylist and unique chronicler of suburban drama. Conception takes a strange turn in "Georgica," as a woman recovering from an accident fixates on the "golden boys" of the beach and plots to make one of them the father of her child. The narrator of "The Chinese Lesson" finds his sympathy for his confused, homesick mother-in-law, Mrs. Ha, has alienated him from his wife, who has spent her life "trying not to be Chinese." In the title piece, a fourth-grade teacher's list of "things you already should know but maybe are a little dumb, so you don't" becomes an obsession for the narrator, who missed school the day it was supposedly handed out. A shape-shifting woman who visits the insouciant, anorexic girl of "Raft in Water, Floating" finds her own story in "The Weather Outside Is Sunny and Bright." Not much happens in it—she goes to her job ("architectural forensics"), visits her mother in a nursing home, takes a bath and casually exercises her powers—but the story feels full anyway, replete with a strange magic. It's precisely this sort of thing that makes Homes so good. (Sept. 6)

Forecast:Homes's reputation alone should guarantee strong sales. The planned July release of the film version of The Safety of Objects, starring Glenn Close and Dermot Mulroney, would have helped, but the release date has been pushed to spring 2003. Eight-city author tour.