Richard Russo's Bridge of Sighs (Knopf) is a departure for him, in which he combines his skills in rendering the narratives and rhythms of small-town American life with a new cosmopolitan reach. A 60-year-old town merchant and his wife of four decades embark on a long-planned visit to Venice, where there lives a friend of their youth, now a famous artist. Russo's main character, Louis, is nicknamed Lucy, and he and his wife might both be in love with this man. Russo makes sexual ambiguity feel homey and familiar, and he does it here with consequences more emotionally weighty than ever before. His novels have that pleasurable roominess of books rich in story and quick in prose style, but in Bridge of Sighs, he crosses from bittersweet comedy to the realm of tragedy, sharing with Roth and Patchett the powerful element of an aging protagonist struggling to make peace with unfulfilled ambitions, painful losses, and resonant mistakes.