Selected as the 1998 Drue Heinz Literature Prize Award winner, and winner of the Midland Society of Authors Award for Adult Fiction, 1999. Storytelling and art are major themes of this collection. The stories center on the need for expression, the pain of failing in artistic expression, and the ways in which we construct imaginative representations of our lives, the "necessary fictions" that allow us to live. At the heart of the book is a series of three interconnected stories and a novella concerning Raymond Gerhardt and his family. Ray is a carpenter, a World War II veteran, obsessed with building the perfect home for his family. When he dies, a possible suicide, his wife and children are left to sort out the meaning of his life and their own.