July 17, 1995 12:00 PM

by Richard Ford

When we last saw journalist Frank Bascombe, it was in the early ’80s. With his ex-wife, lovers and dead child behind him, he was busy weathering a midlife crisis on a Florida beach. In Independence Day, Ford’s rich and ambitious sequel to The Sports-writer (1986), Frank has come home.

It is 1988. He is selling real estate in New Jersey, and while the crises are over, the problems remain. Frank is a stranger to his own heart. He lives carefully, content to ignore things and see them go away, and while he values his independence, he feels the loneliness that such freedom can bring. After unsuccessfully showing a property to an out-of-state couple and spending an evening with his lover, Frank heads to Connecticut to pick up his son for a two-day excursion. Paul, in the throes of adolescence, was recently arrested for shoplifting, and Frank, the absentee dad, is not sure how to reach him. Their wrestling for love gives Independence Day its strength and appeal.

Ford writes with terrific subtlety, deftly capturing unspoken sentiments. Independence Day is a vivid celebration not just of the textures of daily life, but also of the epiphanies that punctuate the most ordinary moments. (Knopf, $24)

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