The stereotypical image of America’s middle class—successful adults shepherding worthy children toward better lives—is turned on its head in Andrew Porter’s beautifully executed short story collection The Theory of Light and Matter. Porter, who teaches creative writing at Trinity University, pulls us through the looking glass into a world where adults suffer from failed careers or sexual confusion and their offspring are underachievers at best or, at worst, mentally “not right.” There’s a crisp economy to these stories that nicely underpins their offbeat narratives: brawling Amish teenagers in “Departure”; a gay exchange student who inspires jealousies in both his host parents in “Azul”; and the failed filmmaker in “Coyotes,” who deserts his family and leaves behind only a photograph of himself and his wife, in happier days, “leaning slightly into the wind, bracing themselves against something they cannot yet see.” University of Georgia Press, $24.95