With impressive credibility, and even humor, Mickle (The Queen of October) explores the tragic and potentially maudlin subject of teen suicide, creating an engrossing narrative that manages to avoid sentimentality and bathos. Based on a real incident, the novel interweaves the story of Bergin Talbot, a smart, popular 17-year-old whose attempt at suicide initially seems inexplicable, with that of her mother, Leslie, a public defender who's found contentment in a second marriage. Having survived physically (she's discovered by her stepbrother), Bergin must confront a soul-searing spiritual question, "how do I get back?" The background to her desperate act and her struggle to return to a normal life, to bond again with her mother and the rest of the family, and to fit in again with her peers, are detailed with psychological acuity and genuine feeling. Bergin's voice is irresistible: a refreshing blend of feigned nonchalance, irreverence and just plain funky teen, poignant in what it reveals obliquely. Alternating chapters are narrated by Leslie, with more mature urgency and self-recriminations as she seeks to understand the reasons behind Bergin's emotional breakdown. The circumstances of her own life, as she gradually reveals them, are affecting, and her sorrow over Bergin's emotional distress is almost palpable. Mickle can nail a characterization in a single sentence and break your heart with witty rue. Set in north Florida and laced with front-porch wisdom, this is Ordinary People made right again, and graced with humor. Agent, Sam Pinkus. (Nov.) Forecast: Mickle will probably garner her first sales in Florida, where she writes essays for the Orlando Sentinel, and reads on Florida PublicRadio. Her fans on NPR's Morning Edition and her active Web site will help move books farther afield. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.