Ethan Canin, . . Random, $23.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-679-45679-7

August Kleinman, the protagonist of Canin's (For Kings and Planets) latest novel, is 78 years old, rich and wise from a life filled with accomplishments and heartache. Yet as this spare, beautifully realized story opens, he is marveling at the fierce force he discovered in himself one afternoon when he was 18. That day, on his way to watch a friend from his Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Queens practice football at Fordham University, Kleinman slipped into the locker room and impulsively donned a uniform. He can still feel the way he soared through the air and the jolt of the tackle he landed before he was caught. Looking back, Kleinman can clearly see that it has been the sudden flare of this instinctive intelligence and fight, this drive to persist and assert his existence, that has shaped his life, bringing both abundance and loss. Canin deftly laces together the defining stories of Kleinman's life—from fleeing Nazi Germany as a child with his mother to fighting the Japanese in World War II, building his fortune, enduring the death of his beloved wife and then his difficult relationship with one grown son. Each story contributes another instance of the fighting spirit and impulse to soar that so characterizes Kleinman. However, what is finally galvanizing and moving about Kleinman's life is not his individuality but his complexity. He is capable of being touched, and he yearns to protect and nurture what he finds good. This work has a resonance and precision that can come only when native storytelling ability and craftsmanship search out the deepest truths. Canin deserves a wide readership because he shows that truth—even the truth that comes with age and experience—is not boring. (May)