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Cage's Bend

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    powerfully poignant family drama

    Southern Episcopal Minister Franklin Rutledge and his wife, Margaret raise three sons, born in the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s. Though he once dreamed of a Ph.D. in Divinity Studies instead of father to three rambunctious boys, Franklin is pleased with what God has given him. He worries about the rivalry between his two oldest, Cage and Nick, born less than one year apart, but believes that is God¿s way. He thanks God that Harper was born a decade later. Cage is a terrific athlete, intelligent, charming and a hunk. Nick, except when competing against Cage, is reticent though he is as smart and handsome as his older brother. Harper worships his brothers and wants to be with them all the time. --- In 1987 Nick dies in a car accident. His surviving family struggles to cope with the loss. Cage blames himself as he was the last to speak with Nick his mood swings soon are diagnosed as bipolar disorder. Harper makes it at Wall St. but hides his loss and his fear that Cage is next with alcohol and drugs. Franklin believes he has failed as a Bishop because he has unsuccessfully brought any comfort to his family. Margaret, though grieving her loss, knows she must help her dysfunctional family heal. --- Rotating perspective between the four Rutledges, readers obtain a powerfully poignant family drama that looks deep at interactions and interrelationships when the dynamics change due to the death of the fifth participant leading to new conflicts arising. The key to CAGE¿S BEND is that the characters seem real especially as members of a competitive family. Carter Coleman provides a fabulous complex tale of people struggling to cope with loss often by destructive behavior. --- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2005

    A Grand Old Southern Family Tale, With No Holds Barred

    Carter Coleman continues to prove that he is a fine writer who is gaining well-deserved wider attention. He understands the great Gothic style of the important writers of the South with all the jasmine-scented niceties that wrap the subdermal tragedies and secrets and yet he can move his characters out of their Southern atmosphere into the madness of the outer world and mold them into fully formed contemporary people. He seems to have the best of both worlds at his fingertips.The Rutledge family goes back many generations in the humid atmosphere of Tennessee (Cage's Bend is a town at the bend of a river), a family with as many odd characters as solid ones. The Rutledges of this novel include Franklin, a bishop in the Episcopal Church, his strongly supportive wife Margaret, and three sons - Cage is the eldest followed by the year younger Nick and the ten years younger Harper. This ecclesiastically peripatetic family is a solid unit, each growing into parents and young men successful at their levels until a tragic car crash in 1987 kills Nick: the events leading to this crisis and the resultant sequelae on each of the members' lives make the substance of this story.Idiosyncrasies are unveiled in a flashback flash/forward manner with 'chapters' of bold type history interspersed with first person accounts by Cage, Harper, Margaret and Franklin - a method of writing that allows us a more intimate vantage of each of the characters' perspectives. The tragedy affects Cage the most strongly: he feels responsible for the death of his beloved brother for reasons that unfold later in the book. Cage being the eldest carries the gene for bipolar personality disorder and the death of Nick triggers his first manic manifestation, followed by the seesaw manic/depressive episodes that change him from the successful athlete and businessman to a drug and alcohol besotted failure wandering the country seeking meaning and refuge from his soulful agonies. Harper as the youngest feels ignored by his father and less desirable than the departed 'holy Nick' to his mother and while he manages to become a successful stock broker, he is also plagued by being a sex addict, always seeking the mother that he felt eluded him.The novel is spiced by that peculiar brand of Southern stoicism ('Cage will be fine, Mars. Don't you worry. Every good southern family has a manic-depressive....Fine old families often have more. They all learn to get by. They often distinguish themselves.'), bandaids for problems that eventually peel away when the realities of the depth of the illnesses become blatant. Cage's words say a lot: 'I don't see why everyone doesn't commit suicide. Life is like an all-night party with rivers of blow and naked playmates, but to get to the party you have to pass through a filthy hole, slathering yourself with excrement, and buy a ticket by prostituting yourself, and at the end of the night you have to squeeze back out through the fetid crack into nothingness.' Reflecting on his past Cage muses he was 'a child who smiled long before most, as if my happiness which began prematurely would spend itself prematurely and plunge the family into more sadness than anyone had ever dreamed, bearing the legacy of violence which the Cages brought to Tennessee, a curse of blood which would reach forward through time and seven generations to haunt the innocent soul of the first born and the last to carry the family name.' And later strong Margaret adds 'I read that manic-depressives have a better recovery rate in the third world countries because all the members of the extended family are close by and supportive. Surely that's the healthiest way to live.'So it is the return to the nuclear family unit that ultimately provides healing of the slings and arrows that take each member on a Rake's Progress. Coleman gives us wholly credible characters who never lose our interest or compassion. If at times he meanders through the myriad love affairs of the brothers or

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