Cady is the author of creditable, occasionally prize-winning short stories, so it's surprising that he has produced such an amateurish novel--a central core of expertise surrounded by mush. That core of expertise? Cady's evocation of how it feels to drive a big truck, a rig: not just the stops for coffee and the white-line fever, but the actual running of the machine--in this case the machine run by long-haul trucker Charles Singleton, 50. Singleton's been a trucker ever since quitting the Coast Guard (he's still haunted by the blinding-at-sea of a young shipmate); and whenever he's in North Carolina, he takes comfort from lover Catherine, a weaver and painter. But he's usually on the move--working or chasing after nephew Ben, a trucker who has disappeared because of guilt over the paralyzing of his father (Singleton's brother) in a wreck some time back. Despite this sliver of melodrama, however, plot is negligible here. Cady concentrates instead on atmosphere, on his depiction of Singleton as that statue-like fictional standby: the good, hard, inarticulate man. And this stolid prototype, heavy with decency, here inspires lots of solemnly sappy prose, a sort of dreadful Hemingway brand of uncooked grits: ""He had the truck. He had the road. He had the work and the song of the drive. It was like being immersed in a love affair, and maybe it was going to end some day, but it was not ending yet."" Sincere but painfully clumsy, then, with a droning single texture and a hero who drags the book down like a stone.