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Rebecca Miller. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (192p) ISBN 978-0-374-29911-8

In Miller’s alluring collection (after the novel Jacob’s Folly), protagonists search for connection and pleasure in strange, sometimes destructive ways. Daphne in “Mrs. Covet” is a mother of two, pregnant with a third. The family hires a cleaning lady named Nat, hoping for some order, but after Nat moves in, something disastrous happens. In the speculative title story, people have transcendent phone sex on devices called Total Phones, and the force field of an early version of the phone leads to birth defects (most “Total children” die from unknown causes by the age of eight or nine). Roxanne, 16, hatches a plan to break her younger sister, E, eight, from the Total Care Center where she’s lived since her infancy, and devastating consequences ensue. In “She Came to Me,” Ciaran, an Irish writer who has remained faithful to his wife of 18 years, struggles with writer’s block and decides to seek out everyday stories in Dublin. He meets a young American woman who professes to be a romantic (and admits to having been a stalker). They go to her room, where he has second thoughts about having sex with her, though they do anyway. Miller brings a cinematic eye to her descriptions (a parking garage’s “final floor” offers a “vivid sky”) and plenty of drama to the situations. These stories are full of surprises. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency. (July)