Ascension, by Steven Galloway (Knopf) is the story of Salvo, a tightrope walker, and his life and family in and out of the American circus. Galloway deploys modest language and simple sentences, enlivened and emboldened by stellar subject matter: each thought on the high wire is a step toward falling. But Galloway doesn’t fall. What sets him apart from those who do is the entirety of his vision: Ascension walks a tightrope between economy of language and big-time storytelling. Simplicity and economy of movement are best whether you are up in the air or putting pen to paper, and Galloway does not write like a man facing death. He is a patient and agile storyteller who uses the best of the new fiction techniques—those that commit the writer to staying inside the text—to immerse the reader in his story, his world. My favourite scene in the book is the one where young Salvo first learns how to stay on a wire. When he drops down from the wire in exhaustion, he is throttled by his mentor and admonished never to seek the ground. Galloway must have taken that advice: he aims high, stays cool and never seeks the ground.