Novelist Cheuse (Candace & Other Stories, 1980; The Bohemians, 1982; The Grandmothers' Club, 1986) here turns to autobiography-cum-historical reminiscence-cum-travel-diary. The result is, unfortunately, an overly ambitious work that fails to live up to its author's complex vision of reconciling his ambiguous feelings concerning his immigrant father. Incorporating pages from his father's description of his life as a Soviet flier (before he ditched his plane into the Sea of Japan and defected to America during the 1920's) into his own memories of a boyhood spent in Perth Amboy, N.J., and his and his son's experiences during a tour of Russia, Cheuse produces a work that is ungainly, awkward in organization, and overinflated in prose style. Part of the problem stems from the lack of drama of much of what both Cheuse and his father have chosen to pass along. The author's memories of his adolescence, for instance, are yet another rehearsal of those Jewish domestic pleasures and perturbations--battling parents, sagacious grandmothers, sexual awakenings and proliferating guilts--that have become clichÃ‰d. And the descriptions of the peregrinations through Russia, purportedly undertaken in a search for ""roots,"" are curiously inconclusive, overrun with complaints about the paucity of entrÃ‰es in Soviet hotel dining rooms. Perhaps in an effort to compensate, Cheuse adopts a quasi-poetic tone--but even that fails to convey convincingly the emotional depth he is apparently seeking. A marred work, though one to be admired for what it attempts.