cover image THE VAGABONDS


Nicholas Delbanco, . . Warner, $23.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-446-53002-6

"[M]oney changes things," Delbanco's saga allows, as it slips across generations to examine the bonds of inheritance, fiscal and otherwise, linking three siblings. When the scattered Saperstones—coddled Claire, drifting David and down-on-her-luck Joanna—return to their childhood home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., upon their mother's death, they discover they've been left a sizable sum of money. The inheritance began with a batch of General Electric stock, bequeathed by a cadre of adventure-smitten, self-styled "vagabonds": no less towering figures than Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford. After a cad in Firestone's employ impregnates a young girl in 1916, the three give the shares to provide for her illegitimate progeny. Over two generations, the shares and their intangible presence increase; Alice, the Saperstones' mother, cognizant of her own demons, leaves the trust untouched so that it might fulfill her children's lives in ways she could not. Each child ponders how to channel the windfall into something meaningful: courage, security, a new life. As their futures reconfigure, they draw together in their new history, especially when tragedy undermines Claire's charmed existence. While the vagabonds relished the country's open roads and boundless opportunity—a colorful bit of history animated here—generations later, the Saperstones yearn for a more rooted certainty. Delbanco (What Remains ) creates a lyrical narrative showing a palpably American faith in reinvention as he weaves nostalgia-tinged memories into a grittier reality. Agent, Gail Hochman. (Nov.)