cover image The Splendid Things We Planned: A Family Portrait

The Splendid Things We Planned: A Family Portrait

Blake Bailey. Norton, $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-23957-7

It seems fitting that biographer Bailey tells the story of his own life by chronicling his brother Scott’s alcoholism and drug addiction, which causes him to descend into violence and madness. Told in chronological order, starting with the marriage of his straight-laced lawyer father to his bohemian, German-immigrant mother, Bailey’s story captures the contradictions and tensions that simmer just below the surface of the family, as they try to live a normal suburban life in Oklahoma. But as Scott goes from being a self-absorbed teen to a pothead, college dropout, and junkie, the family dynamic unravels, breaking up the marriage as the author himself heads toward alcoholism, debauchery, and ennui—though not to his brother’s depths. But this is Scott’s story, and Bailey tells it wonderfully, in a tragicomic tone that slowly reveals the true depths to which his older brother has sunk. (Mar.)