The world of Jill Ciment’s brilliant collection of short stories is funny, offbeat, and contemporary. Her chosen theme is the encounter of innocence with the world. Each story depicts in unforgettable fashion the collision of consciousness with the everyday—and all dazzle with insight, artistry, and plucky, wide-eyed charm. Here, then, is the world of Small Claims, where a young girl’s overweening ambition to win a school drawing contest leads to a fundamental insight into the nature of life; where a budding painter’s attempt to win a name for herself ends with her doing portraits of a sick parrot; where a young woman spends her meager savings on a threesome with her spoiled roommate and the roommate’s egotistical boyfriend. Above all, it is a world where unrequited love—and the dogged willingness to offer it against all odds—is itself a form of salvation.