cover image Baby Brother's Blues

Baby Brother's Blues

Pearl Cleage. One World, $24.95 (335pp) ISBN 978-0-345-48110-8

At the start of this scorching morality tale from Cleage (Babylon Sisters), Wesley ""Baby Brother"" Jamerson, a soldier reluctantly serving in Iraq, is on a five-day emergency leave in Washington, D.C., because his mother has died. But Wes, who ""had made an art form of avoiding responsibility,"" has no plans to attend his mother's funeral. Nor does he intend to return to his unit in Iraq. A failed attempt to visit his older sister, Cassie, to whom he's shown little gratitude despite all her efforts to help him, leads to a lecture from his judge brother-in-law: ""You youngbloods think the world owes you a living, and for what? You're mad at your mamas, mad at your daddies, mad at the women foolish enough to have your children. Always crying the blues."" It's downhill for the self-destructive Wes from there. Cleage manages to end on a note of uplift, but an overly complex plot and a surfeit of underdeveloped supporting characters diminish the impact of this novel of infidelity and greed.