British comic novelist David Lodge has an endearing way of falling in love with his characters. It is a habit that saves his latest novel (Viking; 321 pages; $22.95) from becoming an all-too-familiar tale of midlife crisis. Lawrence "Tubby" Passmore is 58 and securely married with a job he loves. But he quickly finds all is not as secure as he believed. Tubby's attempts to recover make for neither enterprising nor funny reading, says TIME's Martha Duffy. But a meeting with a teenage love redeems both Passmore and the book. "By subtle shifts in tone," says Duffy, "Lodge has grafted a hackneyed case of worldly malaise to material straight out of an uplifting homily."