Poverman's fourth (The Black Velvet Girl; Susan; Solomon's Daughter) is a flashback-laden, coming-of-age opus mostly about a son and his father that reads like a very rich and promising first novel. Jed's live-in lover Gracie, a pregnant photographer, leaves him because he refuses to marry her. The trauma of this separation sets him digging into the bones of his past, and the novel alternates between long flashbacks and Jed's journey back to Gracie and his future child. The present-tense sections, laconic and full of Weltschmerz, are reminiscent in tone of Richard Ford's The Sportswriter (Jed: ""I was merely walking through my life. Doing time. When things were bleak, nothing seemed real, and much of the time I felt like a visitor to another planet""). The flashbacks diagnose Jed's alienation: he dreams vividly of his surgeon father; remembers learning championship diving after a severe illness; takes acid; lies in the bow of one of his father's beloved boats; attends Chesterfield, an all-male preparatory school; learns from Rosenzweig, a student, what it means to be Jewish; goes to ""the Great Grey University,"" gets drunk, and moves ever-closer to calamity with a series of disdainful schoolboy stunts (the university section contains some first-rate satire of Ivy League pretension); goes to India and works against drought (a worthy novella-length section in itself); goes into social work, gets involved in an obsessive (even hallucinatory) affair with a woman, leaves her and moves to Arizona, where he meets Gracie. Past and present dovetail: he goes to Gracie, learns Lamaze, and becomes a proud father. Richly descriptive and often a pleasure, but also unwieldy: overloaded and too bulky in its determination to say everything about one man's coming-of-age.