A grave and often resonant first novel about middle-aged Bailey Wright--jobless, his life out of focus--who brings himself, his wife Jacqueline, and twelve-year-old son Lawson to the brink of tragedy at a family reunion during a slumberous Virginia summer. Through the muffled flurry of wedding preparations for niece Bonnie, Bailey--both lulled and wounded by images and artifacts from his past--stumbles into a sleazy affair with Nora, Bonnie's harsh, young bridesmaid. Meanwhile, Lawson is devastated by an erotic awakening brought on by Bonnie's prewedding spree of confessions and skinny-dipping. Bailey, identity diffused and out of reach, puts a near-fatal gun to his head, and Lawson, tortured by terror and guilt (he had seen his father and Nora together), nurses the knowledge that he too has the ""secret power"" to end his life. But, as Lawson's strange but tender Uncle Edward points out, there's a difference between wanting to die and wanting ""to kill everything about yourself you can't live with."" At the close, Bailey, Jacqueline, and Lawson approach a delicate and tentative peace. Broughton is at his best when savoring the murmurous complexity of Family, old houses with their footfalls and slamming doors, and fields of dandelions darkening under a passing cloud. The frequent expository introspections--often stating what should be inherent--seem intrusive, but Broughton's Gathering is quietly styled, well-schooled, and warmly accessible.