he Rome-based Williams, like the Alice Munro she so admires, is a meticulous observer who mines import from the details of daily life. In “Home,” a tense encounter with a Carabiniere is all menace but veers away from the predictable; in “Pets,” a tender masterpiece, a hamster — of all creatures — functions as a cultural bridge; “Motion” and “Let the Games Begin” tack around the fragile edges of relationships, while “Saving Rome for Someone Special” wrestles with the complications of superficiality.
Superficial is what Williams is not. Each of these stories is a small gale in a passing cloud. Williams’ stories excavate all that’s unsaid about living in Rome. She doesn’t so much save the city — an obvious irony — as demonstrate the frailty of its protocols, giving each of her characters believable flaws and desires. This is a stunningly accomplished first collection.