by John Casey
Knopf; 375 pages; $18.95
Stories about seafaring inevitably carry a ballast of symbolism. Shimmering significance goes with the territory: people casting off in the little world of a ship, adrift on a journey at the mercies of the elements and fate. In his second novel -- twelve years after his critically praised An American Romance -- John Casey makes it plain on the opening page that some large issues are going to be entertained. He introduces his hero, Dick Pierce, in a skiff, floating among the creeks and inlets of coastal Rhode Island. In paragraph two, Pierce...