It is fall, 2000 and Frank Bascombe has arrived at a state of optimistic pragmatism that he calls the Permanent Period of life. Epic mistakes have already been made, dreams downsized, and Frank reflects that now at least there are fewer opportunities left in life to get things wrong. But the tranquillity he anticipated is not to be. In fact, as Thanksgiving dinner with his children and first wife nears, the Permanent Period proves as full of possibility as life had ever been. In his third Frank Bascombe novel, Richard Ford contemplates the human character with wry precision. Graceful, expansive, filled with pathos but irresistibly funny, “The Lay of the Land” is a modern American masterpiece.