This complete collection of Agnes Owens’ five novellas opens with ‘Like Birds in the Wilderness’, a portrait of brickie Mac. He’s a straightforward guy with a talent for laying bricks and a liking for the drink who decides to head to the oil-rich north to seek his fortune. ‘A Working Mother’ is a wildly entertaining cautionary tale: while Betty’s husband Adam broods and drinks (to be matched at times by Betty, just to be sociable) she flirts with their best friend Brendan and tries to avoid the roving hands of her new employer. They’re all driving Betty crazy. ‘In For the Love of Willie Owens’ takes a sensitive, canny look at wartime teenage pregnancy – as relevant now as ever. ‘Bad Attitudes’ and ‘Jen’s Party’ conclude the collection: both deadly, darkly funny stories about family relationships and love on the dole.