cover image The Coal Tower

The Coal Tower

Tony Gentry. Nextext, $14.99 trade paper (326p) ISBN 978-1-73276-080-6

Gentry’s richly observed debut novel (after a series of biographies for young readers) traces the intersection of two separate worlds in Charlottesville, Va., on a late summer day. Mattie Mosby is the local police officer. His mentally ill brother, Sid, lives with Mattie but spends his days in a homeless encampment or in the attic of a huge abandoned coal tower. Chloe Cannon, 16, has partied with friends in the lower section of the tower, while her mother, Iris, and father, the bombastic neurosurgeon Rainsworth Cannon, are preoccupied with preparations for entertaining guests at their house during an upcoming film festival. Chloe is also obsessing over a fling the previous spring with Lucas, a young starving musician who now makes his way back to her from South Carolina by hopping coal trains. Tension vibrates through each of these threads—whether it’s Rainsworth’s stress levels or Sid’s strange new quest to gather guns—until everyone is caught up in a tragedy at the tower. Dynamic prose shows Gentry swinging for the fences, and occasionally he connects. The sprint through the minds and actions of this intriguing mix of people will grab hold of readers’ attention until the startling, unsettling conclusion. Gentry succeeds with a memorable portrait of a college town and its disparate worlds. (Self-published)