Long before you bump into a direct referral, Thomas Savage's most accomplished and sympathetically encroaching novel to date will have reminded you of Fitzgerald in its Gatsbyish tenor (nostalgia cum regret -- where aspirations trail off like lost ghosts) and also of Marquand in its assiduous respect for labels which place it so solidly in reality. More than John Reed, John W. Reed -- an appropriated initial to redeem him from ordinariness -- will ever achieve. From a financially and emotionally sketchy background, Jack is a quintessentially simple man looking for more than a mediocre life without any of the criteria to differentiate it -- only the money he makes as a successful insurance broker. Always trying to confirm himself, he invests everything in his two children via a passionless marriage, trying to buy for them the background he'd never had and they don't want. Martha will learn to walk whether in sneakers or high heels through the wrong rooms; Tim prefers chinos to J. Press suits and totally mistakes his father as a cold, selfish man until his father mistakes him -- as a prowler -- and shoots him. Jack is just one of those men who does the wrong things for the wrong reasons with the best intentions and through him Savage manages to go beyond the surfaces he transfixes so well and get under your skin. It's a sad story of the unestablished self trapped between beginnings, endings, change and irreversible loss.