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Things You Should Know

Bulletins from the Home Front

Three fascinating fictions go to the heart of the new family.

By Cathleen Medwick

Nobody probes the soft, dark underbelly of family life more expertly than A.M. Homes. Her new collection of stories, Things You Should Know (HarperCollins), is her first in a dozen years (the movie version of The Safety of Objects will be out in 2003).

Homes's characters are desperate for human connection, which they fear and violently reject. A husband wants to leave his wife but feels addicted to her, even as she recoils from him. "It is about wanting and need...needing to get what you never got, wanting it still, wanting it all the more," Homes writes in "Remedy," the story of a stressed executive who calls her aged parents only to find a stranger inexplicably replacing her in their lives. "It is about holding back, withholding. It is about being stuck. It is about panic. It is about realizing you are in over your head, something's got to give." These are stories to make you shudder lightly, and reach for a hand in the dark.