Karen Karbo
January 31, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

People find solace in reading, writing, and giving each other books in the resplendent short stories of the late great Carol Shields. Some of her characters are writers, but most are everyday people who mow their lawns and buy fruit at the grocery, their lives as miraculous and ordinary as childbirth. Still, there’s nothing specious about these gems. In the droll ”Flitting Behavior,” a celebrated author writes his funniest book while tending to his dying wife. ”Dressing Up for the Carnival” gives us Tamara, a lovely clerk-receptionist waiting for her morning bus. The tender triumph of the massive Collected Stories might be the poignant ”Segue,” Shields’ last story before her July 2003 death, about a woman of a certain age who devotes herself to writing a perfect line of poetry every day of her life.

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