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Intense in subject yet restrained in tone, these stories are about longings--often held for years--and the ways in which sex and religion can become parallel forms of dedication and comfort. Though the stories stand alone, a minor element in one becomes major in the next. In "My Shape," a woman is taunted by her dance coach, who later suffers his own heartache. A Venetian poet of the 1500s, another storyteller, is introduced to a modern traveler reading Rilke. His story precedes a mesmerizing narrative of missionaries in China. In the final story, Giles, born to a priesthood family, leans toward Buddhism after a grievous loss, and in time falls in love with the dancer of the first story. So deft and subtle is Joan Silber with these various perspectives that we come full circle surprised and enchanted by her myriad worlds. National Book Award finalist. Reading group guide included.