SHORTLISTED FOR THE DYLAN THOMAS PRIZEThe stories of Kseniya Melnik's debut collection are small-town miracles, each a miniature epic.Their focus is Magadan, a town in the Northern Far East of Russia, and the unvisited lives of its inhabitants and emigrants - schoolchildren, doctors, teachers, mothers, daughters. Some characters span several stories. Some of their stories span decades and continents. The measure of their telling, though, is invariably the measure of everyday existence. Their dramas, too, are made of quotidian stuff, each life with its own sly or suppressed tragedies, and its brief, often unexpected ecstasies.Kseniya Melnik's sensibility is sober and humorous; her stories are moving and funny. In their patient, deliberate unfolding - at once surprising and convincing - and in the fitness of their details - vital because they are suggestive - we sense, above all, an assurance that is dazzling.