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Unhappy Georgia man responsible for the care of his brain-damaged older brother yearns for a different life.

It is understandable why Brad Orville would feel like he got something of a bum deal. Holding down a soulless job, he’s prematurely bald and lives in a somewhat dilapidated, albeit charming, country spread with his disabled brother Compton. A one-time ladies man now reduced to shattered motor skills and emotional outbursts, Compton suffered a grisly beating at the hands of a woman’s jealous husband. Some, including Brad in his darker moments, would argue that he brought it upon himself. Shortly before the beating, Compton used his considerable charms (and glossy head of hair) to seduce Brad’s fiancée, ruining, Brad believes, his chance at happiness. Brad’s simmering resentment boils over when Compton suddenly marries a young African-American woman named Peaches that he meets at his rehabilitation center. Pregnant with Compton’s twins, Peaches moves in with the brothers, upsetting their routine. Claiming to want what is best for his brother and Peaches (and terrified of having three new people to support), Brad plots to have their marriage annulled and the babies put up for adoption. What he really wants is to have a life of his own, and he takes several ill-fated steps (purchasing an expensive “hair system,” Internet dating) to those ends. He is also approached by zealous developers eager for his and Compton’s land. Brad really starts to spin out of control, though, after he drops his antidepressants in favor of alcohol, with blackouts and other self-destructive behavior following. Meanwhile, Compton and Peaches fix up the place, oblivious to the developers, and Compton starts to remember what a jerk he was to Brad in his previous life. This realization leaves room for the healing that both brothers sorely need—if it isn’t too late. Crandell’s character-driven follow-up to The Flawless Skin of Ugly People (2007) might occasionally overdo the sentimentality, but Brad, by turns self-pitying and selfless, makes for an especially relatable hero.

Tragicomic Cain and Abel variation, with a reassuring hopefulness.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7535-1378-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Virgin Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2008