cover image CAGE'S BEND


Carter Coleman, . . Warner, $24.95 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-446-57661-1

The death of the middle brother in a tight-knit Southern family has a long-lasting effect on older brother Cage and younger brother Harper in this insightful second novel by Coleman (The Volunteer ). Nick Rutledge is killed in his mid-20s in 1987, in a head-on car collision. His death devastates everyone—his Tennessee minister father, Frank; his mother, Margaret; Cage; and Harper. It's Cage, however, who bears the largest burden of grief and hidden guilt, discovering in the meantime that he's manic-depressive and spiraling into a decade-long bout of drug and alcohol abuse. His parents and grandmother try to give him the support he needs, but it's Harper who repeatedly finds himself cleaning up Cage's messes, even as he pursues a high-powered Wall Street career, drinking and womanizing to distract himself. Coleman writes insightfully and with a minimum of Southern sentimentality as he depicts Cage's illness and the wearying effects it has on everyone around him, and illustrates the sacrifices one makes—or doesn't make—for the sake of family. Brother Nick leaves little impression on the reader (most of the story takes place in the 1990s, though there are numerous flashbacks to the boys' childhood in the 1960s and 1970s) and at times the mechanics of the plot are a bit visible, but overall this is a good, solid, contemporary Southern novel. Agent, Lynn Nesbit. 7-city author tour. (Jan. 7)