Ethan Canin made his mark with tales of tortured souls trying to make sense of their lives. His latest novel is another beautifully crafted, melancholy page-turner. But it's also uneven, with a minimalist plot that sometimes clunks along.
Canin's hero, Pittsburgh millionaire August Kleinman, lives by the piece of wisdom his mom gave him when he was a boy, just before mother and son abandoned his dad and fled Nazi Germany: "Take the advice of no one." Having heeded those words, Kleinman nears the end of his life sad and alone. His wife, Ginger, is dead; his children are scattered around the country. And the riches he furiously pursued as a beer manufacturer sit in the bank collecting interest and dust. Kleinman is also consumed by memories of an encounter with a Japanese soldier in a cave during World War II.
In trying to conclude on a suspenseful note, the plot fizzles. Canin loyalists, though, won't mind, since the path his characters travel is what matters. Even for nonfans, Klein-man's journey of self-discovery is so well-written that it's a trip worth taking. (Random House, $23.95)