The characters in the stories that make up Kimberly King Parsons’s Black Light are so alive to the pleasures of life that their exhilaration is present in every word and word choice here. Parsons’s prose style is extra-vivid, so that we feel like we enter every bar and doctor’s office and hotel room she illuminates for us as if by flashes of lightning. Parsons avoids both sentimentality and despair and defeats them with curiosity and frankness and sometimes just sheer velocity. There is tough good humor everywhere in these stories, and a refreshing faith in the sexiness of people as one of the better reasons to go on living.

Black Light, by Kimberly King Parsons. Published by Vintage. The editor is Timothy O’Connell and the agent is Meredith K. Simonoff. Black Light is a finalist for the Publishing Triangle’s Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction; the winner will be announced on April 30.