When the Serpent Bites by Nesly Clerge

When the Serpent Bites

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From debut author Clerge comes a novel about one man’s quest to survive prison and find answers within himself.

Frederick Starks, a man who built his life “on calculated risks and informed decisions,” sees everything he worked for vanish almost instantly. After attacking a man with whom his wife is having an affair, he finds himself well into legal hot water and far from his world and its “live-in nanny, Ferrari, mansion, expensive clothes and jewels.” Though his lawyer argues that his act, which put the man in a coma, was a crime of passion, the jury disagrees. He’s convicted and sentenced to time in a maximum security prison—a road that won’t be easy. Soon, an altercation with a well-connected prisoner lands him in solitary confinement, “lower than he’d ever been.” Hope comes in the form of a prison counselor named Demory, who urges Starks to reflect on his past as well as his current condition. “Maybe you want to ask yourself what kind of person you choose to be while you’re here,” she tells him. But will such efforts be enough to save a man like Starks from falling further into a pit of violence and despair? The narrative is full of introspection concerning Starks' past, as when he wanted to ask his eventual wife, Kayla, to his junior prom: “Starks was desperate to go with Kayla and terrified to ask her.” A portrait is painted of a fairly normal, hardworking man who ended up with some rotten luck. Though pages detailing Starks' trial don’t add much to the story—readers will have no problem seeing a conviction on the horizon—suspense is maintained by the question of how anyone might escape and survive such a heap of trouble. The prison fear is vivid, the odds insurmountable, and the conclusion anyone’s guess, though it certainly won’t come easily.

An arresting prison tale about penance—and whether it’s even wanted. 

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 2015
Page count: 387pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2015