With the softest touch of the three, Ann Patchett follows her best-seller Bel Canto (2001) with RUN (HarperCollins), a potently condensed examination of another aging man full of desire and regret. Bernard Doyle is a vividly sketched former (almost forgotten) politician who would like one of his sons to follow in his civic footsteps. His eldest is beyond redemption, but he harbors hopes for his two adopted African-American boys, Tip and Teddy, who have, dismayingly, reached young adulthood with other plans. A terrible accident leads to a 24-hour period in which these long-simmering conflicts surface. Patchett's characters often come with a fragility as fine as lace; their wavering strength and their survival serves as her plot. Her work is full of affection and respect, for her characters and for the world, which is why reading her feels so elegant and so satisfying.