Florida comes up a lot in Williams’s work (she has written a nonfiction book about Key West). It’s a landscape of vacation homes and cut-rate amusements with a complicated gravity that expels some characters, attracts others and causes still others to sink into fragrant, hazy torpor.
But she’s equally at home in — she has in fact lived in — Arizona and Maine. She’s not really a Western or a New England writer, though. Or maybe she is, insofar as the flat, dry heat of the desert affects the restless young women in “The Quick and the Dead” as much as the humidity of Florida afflicts the listless young women in “State of Grace” and “Breaking and Entering,” and the deep, lonesome dark of a Maine winter shadows the mother-and-child odyssey in the short story “Escapes.” Her sense of place is acute, but her places aren’t steeped in history or tradition. People pass through or stop in them without always understanding or caring where they are. “It was one of those rugged American places,” a minor character in “The Quick and the Dead” muses, recalling his hometown in Washington State, “a remote, sad-ass, but plucky downwind town whose citizens were flawed and brave. He would never go back there, of course.”