In her novel "Room," Emma Donoghue let us see the world from the vantage point of a little boy in an 11-by-11-foot room. In the stories collected in the new "Astray," Donoghue returns to her roots in historical fiction. Her fellow travelers are voyagers who, between 1639 and 1968, left the world they knew for undiscovered countries, then never returned.

In the book's first section, each flight involves an escape from a confinement that, while less dramatic than the one in "Room," has narrowed the protagonist's choices. In the first, an elephant and his keeper leave London's zoo for adventures in America. In another, a Jewish woman in 18th-century New York confronts her alienation in a culture that doesn't understand her. In "Last Supper at Brown's," a slave and his master's wife contemplate a new life. In "Onward," a young woman longs for a chance to start over -- away from the hypocritical world of Victorian England, in which she was forced into prostitution.

Each of these stories confirms Donoghue's observation (in an afterword) that migrants are often strangers in the land they leave as well as the one they seek. Not all of Donoghue's characters can handle the freedom their adventures make possible. In the middle and final sections of "Astray," men and women trying on new identities often retreat in fear upon seeing what they find.

Little, Brown

$25.99, 288 pages