A book of fancies that plays metaphysical tricks on rational premises. There’s the unique opening story — “These Hands” — about writer of fairy tales who becomes an adoring nanny to an infant until he’s shut out by her parents. The title work examines a spinster librarian freed from daily monotony by an old man attracted to strange natural phenomena, and to her. A story called “The Ceiling” traces adultery in terms of being hemmed in, in this case by the slow but literal collapse of the sky. In “Apples,” a school exam on prepositions is a prelude to a youthful first kiss that manages to milk enchantment from the word “betwixt.” The passenger in “The Passenger,” a beautifully quirky lampooning of air travel, is born, bred, and mates on a jet.
Brockmeier’s gift is to invent intimate worlds where the miraculous gives grief and convalescence a chance to converse. The wife of a type founder in “Small Degrees” describes her husband as among those who “can take some forlorn thing from inside themselves and shape it into a coin or a bird.” She could as well have been referring to the author, who is as adroit with elfin magic as with the tannic colors of loss.