A family saga from second-novelist Coleman (The Volunteer, 1998) ranges across 30 years and touches three coasts as it unfolds the private dramas of a Protestant bishop and his wife and children.
The prevailing stereotype depicts preachers’ children as holy terrors with a capacity for messing themselves up, but Cage, Nick and Harper Rutledge are nice, soft-spoken southern boys who misbehave in all the most normal ways (drinking, girls) and don’t seem the least bit maimed for having spent most of their childhood in parsonages. Their father, Franklin, is now the bishop of Tennessee, but the boys grew up mostly in Louisiana, where he was pastor of a number of churches. Later in life, however, a deep shadow is cast across the family when Nick (then a student at Berkeley) dies in a car crash on the Golden Gate Bridge. This sets off a time bomb of grief in the two surviving boys, neither of them able to return to normal life afterward. Harper gives up a lucrative career on Wall Street, falls prey to drunkenness and promiscuity, and eventually becomes a kind of itinerant carpenter moving back and forth between Nantucket and Louisiana. Cage sinks even farther, into the very depths of depression. While staying with his brother in Nantucket, he makes the mistake of attacking a police officer and is remanded by the court to a hospital for the criminally insane. His family eventually manages to get him released, but in the interim he has to live through the horrors of the damned. He also begins receiving visits from his dead brother’s ghost. Is Cage truly insane? Or is there more to his father’s business than Cage had always thought? Healing is a slow, painful process but it’s a good deal easier with some help from another world.
A fresh, original account of domestic love and loss that offers interesting characters, brisk narrative and unusual settings.