cover image Leah, New Hampshire: The Collected Stories of Thomas Williams

Leah, New Hampshire: The Collected Stories of Thomas Williams

Thomas William Simpson, Thomas Williams. William Morrow & Company, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-688-11544-9

At first it seems that all the characters in the 15 superior stories collected here are trapped: they're not exactly unhappy, but something is wrong with their picture. The lot of them--the son who takes a fearful plane trip to put his mother's affairs in order before she dies; three skiers on the same mountain trying to retrieve lost love--are caught in a very familiar snare, and it can only be called being human. These tales, set against the backdrop of a fictional but true-to-life New England town, show the late National Book Award winner's top form (a plainspokenness that uncannily reveals a breathtaking image or sudden truth) as well as his straining (several disquisitions on the ethics of hunting). When Williams ( The Moon Pinnace ) writes in ``The Survivors,'' about a boy's bicycle as tool of death, ``It was too familiar, not the instrument of the drama we wanted in our lives,'' he proves his particular strength--the ability to use the writer's sensibility to render significance from what we all have known. (May)