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The Bridegroom by Ha Jin (Pantheon, $22). The real charm comes from the realization that his characters -- living in China's unattractive Muji City, not far from the ugly industrial center of Harbin -- are stuck in lives very much like ours.

More Stories From My Father's Court by Isaac Bashevis Singer (Farrar Straus & Giroux, $22). Many of them read like the newspaper sketches they were -- colorful, slight, occasionally humorous pieces. But a number are more substantial, using a child's naive perspective to cast serious doubts on the basic principles of his Jewish world.

The Quick and the Dead by Joy Williams (Knopf, $25). A masterful short story writer with a mordant eye for extreme situations steeped in everyday realism. This book showcases Williams' economical hand at character development and deft command of constantly shifting points of view.

The Rose Garden by Maeve Brennan (Counterpoint, $23). Brennan's prose is crisp, clear, deceptively simple, full of vivid descriptions of persons and places.

-- Washington Post