A focused, intelligent exploration of a parent's betrayal, leading to the hard-won discoveries that constitute the author's own ongoing education of the heart. When Corbett's physician-father abandoned his wife, his medical practice, his dog, and his Connecticut home in 1965, he also left behind two grown sons. The note Corbett Sr. left tacked to the door said, ``I have gone to further my education.'' This cold fact opens the book and permeates every page. As he fled the country, the good doctor left a further cryptic message with the author's wife, Beverly, saying that ``things aren't what they seem.'' Poet and essayist Corbett (Philip Guston's Late Work: A Memoir, not reviewed), a lecturer in writing at MIT and poetry editor of Grand Street, here employs an appealingly plain style to describe his efforts to delve into the mystery of his father's life and relations. He realizes that his father was for some reason unable ultimately to love. ``That adhesion that bonds parent to child, that inexplicable surge of love for your own flesh and blood . . . must not have taken between my father and me. Or this bond weakened during his years at war,'' writes Corbett, who in reconstructing his father's story also traces his own emotional and literary development, including his admittedly formless and overwritten early attempts to narrate this difficult material. Corbett patiently and lucidly dissects the triangle of affections and hesitancies he formed with his parents, now both deceased. He effectively captures the mood of tragicomedy surrounding family members in the days immediately following his father's leaving, and artfully details the ensuing strains of his relationship with his mother. The son's insights seem to issue, finally, as much from revealed history as from his own gift for thoughtful self- examination undertaken over the years. These insights are expressed in an understated narrative exhibiting great clarity, perspective, and order.