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IN BRIEF

Fiction

July 14, 1996|CHRIS GOODRICH

LIES OF THE SAINTS: Stories by Erin McGraw (Chronicle Books: $11.95 paper, 195 pp.). The title of this story collection derives from the trilogy with which it concludes, but "Lies of the Saints" perfectly represents the whole as well. Most of these tales involve women who have sacrificed something important--career, integrity, happiness--on behalf of a family member, yet simultaneously believe themselves failures for not having done more, or at least better.

Some of the stories are wickedly funny--in "The Return of the Argentine Tango Masters," an unctuous rake humiliates his former wife by becoming a regular caller on her radio show--and others are deeply resonant, such as "A Suburban Story," in which an ordinary housewife, after performing a good deed, is proclaimed a miracle-worker . . . whereupon her daughter says, "Everything's wrecked," convinced mom has become somebody else. "Saint Tracy," from the titular trilogy, is a standout and a classic heartbreaker, a 10-year-old's prayers for her puppy--bought by her father in vengefulness, not joy--being answered only partly.

"Lies of the Saints" is a brilliant debut, and Erin McGraw, who teaches at the University of Cincinnati, a writer to watch.

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