Karen Karbo
March 25, 2008 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Restrained, droll, and nearly flawless in structure, Tobias Wolff’s keen-edged stories often concern confused folks who want to do the right thing, or at least find a way to allow themselves to believe that they’re doing the right thing. In ”Awaiting Orders,” a closeted Army sergeant refuses to help the sister of a soldier he fancies for fear of being outed. The chilling ”Down to Bone” tracks the tender role reversal between a dying mother and her son during her final hours. Ten of the 31 stories in Our Story Begins are new (the others appeared in previous collections), and they’re more accomplished than ever. A

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