After Fathering, Delbanco's only accessible novel, Small Rain's a steady drizzle of raffine exchanges (French, German, Italian and Latin on every other page), recondite vocabulary stretchers ("He permitted the oxymoronic construction; he used the chiasma in speech"), not so recondite aesthetic referrals (the Brownings, Buddenbrooks) and a little name-dropping of fine foods and wines. In between, this is the last romance of Anthony Hope. Harding, sixty, with one kidney, and Maija, with a husband and two children he persuades her to shuck. Until now the epicene Anthony has just had affairs -- say, with Maija's sister whose "breasts were broccoli." At the close Anthony dies -- his cancer (the one kidney) is terminal. The book with its high-toned blat is also just that kind of experience.