Jennifer Reese
March 14, 2008 AT 04:00 AM EDT

After a near-death experience, novelist Larry Woiwode addresses his memoir, A Step From Death, to his son. He ranges freely over his life and career, offering both gossipy glimpses of star-studded New York literary parties and paeans to the steadying routines of his North Dakota wheat farm. Mostly his book is about fathers. Woiwode had two, one biological, the other his beloved mentor, the legendary New Yorker editor William Maxwell. Now a father (and grandfather) himself, Woiwode assembles his accumulated wisdom in a book that is powerfully written, cantankerous, slightly long-winded, and wholly original. A-

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