By Melissa Rose Bernardo
Updated August 18, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

An unmarried middle-aged man seeks self-actualization returning to his family’s long-deserted home in House of Childhood. A ho-hum premise, but Anna Mitgutsch shuttles easily between Max’s New York City home and his birthplace, an Austrian town known simply as H. No detail is extraneous, yet most are admirably subtle: Max is moved by the ”sepia melancholy” of a picture; his New York becomes ”a labyrinth of promises.” And his homeland is no Sound of Music idyll; it’s littered with obstacles (his relatives’ war-ravaged past, his fading Jewish faith). Getting home proves a rough, rewarding trip — and not just for our nomadic hero.