By Vanessa V. Friedman
Updated April 23, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Orthodox Jewish community is not one often explored in contemporary fiction. How can readers who aren’t Orthodox relate? Well, very easily, as this accomplished collection of nine stories proves. “The Tumblers,” a vivid evocation of the destruction of an Eastern European ghetto, dramatizes the catch-22 of false identity and the danger of being what you’re not. “The Wig” depicts a contemporary Brooklyn wigmaker pining for her own lost youth and beauty — symbolized by the loss of her hair — and “The Last One Way” is a stomach-churning portrait of a woman caught in a suffocating marriage. Whether set in the past or present, all the pieces in For the Relief of Unbearable Urges are affecting and accessible, and they illuminate not just a specific community but universal desires. A-