The crossroads summer of an adolescent boy in Virginia is given a strenuously searching treatment in this disturbing, affecting novel. Thirteen-year-old Carey, mother-smothered, anxiety-ridden, given to little boy secrets and love-hate deceptions of his mother, yearning for his absent older brother Blake (rumored to be appearing in ballet, in the movies), taunted by his other brother, Claude, the antithesis of sensitive Blake, is beset by a series of events by which his taut sensibilities are stretched to the breaking point. The homosexual overtures of Carey's minister, the subsequent suicide, coupled with Carey's shame of a common but humiliating masculine physical deficiency, muddle for his maturing consciousness the normal claims of religion, sex and social adjustment. A visit to an inexplicably courageous aunt, when his parents travel to comfort Blake, who had apparently lost a wife in childbirth, introduces Carey to the jovial masculine pursuits of an older cousin. But his aunt dies, amid ego-bitten relatives, and Carey, distraught, confused by the attentions of a retarded female cousin, faces the horror of the truth about Blake. There was no wife, no baby, and it was Blake, ""the different one like Carey,"" who had long ago used him as an object of love. It is Carey's father, in a flush of compassion, who wills the boy to a normal masculine life. An arresting recreation of flat regional speech, mores and the wild loneliness of youth.