Following his praised debut novel, The Patron Saint of Unmarried Women, Ackerman delivers a tender, ruminative tale about a 41-year-old man confronting romance, commitment and his past. Having spent his working life in publishing, Will Gerard recently established his own literary agency in Washington, D.C. He is now enjoying sudden success, but his personal life is growing ever more complicated. In a cinema-ready encounter, Will falls for woman-of-his-dreams Annie Leonard, 39, who, within 24 hours, tells him she wants to have a child with him--pronto. Will hardly has time to ponder the question of becoming a father when a voice from the past suggests that he may already be one: he receives a letter from a young woman who might be the daughter he never knew he had. This event sends Will into a painful reverie about a childhood friend who became his lover and whom he soon abandoned, never thinking she might have been pregnant. Now, two decades later, Will tracks down his old friend, but gets few answers from her. The puzzle is eventually solved with a tearful reunion and several surprises, in part through Will's determination and desire to confront the truth, however messy it may be. Though this plot line is fully realized, the novel's romantic aspect remains curiously undeveloped, with Annie's character absent for much of the tale. Ackerman is himself an insider to the publishing industry, and he gets the idiosyncrasies of the business just right, but readers outside the books biz may find that what makes him of genuine interest is his portrayal of Will's sensitive side: his bird-watching, bread-baking, soul-searching quest to find the true meaning of his life. (Apr.) FYI: Ackerman's jobs in publishing have included work as a bookseller, sales rep, editor and reviewer.