There is little outright cruelty. Usually the suffering is caused by people (usually women) who are simply stripped clean of imagination or emotional generosity. Mild affectionateness covers the chill incapacity to love.
There are quite a few ghosts, real or otherwise. The stories move back and forth across the border of the supernatural. But I believe the author always uses them as a device to sketch character and real-world circumstance, like an actor using space off-stage, or a photographer ready to perch in any awkward or risky spot to catch the image. Nuns also come into it more than once.
The last three pieces are connected under the title "Telegony", a study of the complex interweave of mother and daughter, and its lingering effects.
The cover of the edition I read is taken from the painting The Harvest is the End of the World and the Reapers are Angels by Roger Wagner. It is the only depiction of Judgement Day that I have ever found frightening.