This collection of short stories is loved, even revered, by many fledgling short story writers, and with some legitimate reasons. Bobbie Ann Mason constructs a story well, and her characters behave as real people would. She rarely chooses to give the reader much of a sense of the landscapes in which she works, but when she does, she does it beautifully and economically. Frankly, though, I grew weary of the themes in her stories. In the middle of one of the stories, I think I screamed something like, "If I have to read one more story about dysfunctional relationships, I'm going to shoot myself!" I never did go through with it, in part because Mason does give the reader a taste of some likeable male characters in a few of the stories near the end of the book. I myself would never want to write stories which are, ultimately, as bleak as the stories in this collection, but Mason's bitter humor is often endearing, and her characters are interesting (if similarly crafted from story to story). If you want to read about people from rural Kentucky, read Wendell Berry instead; if you're looking for stories about relationships, read Joyce Carol Oates. Save this one for after you're read just about everything else.