By Lynette G. Esposito
The tale of twin brothers who take different paths in their lives is not a new one. However, Joe Albanese has told the story of Grant and Lee from the first moments of their birth. The narrator is the younger brother by twelve minutes in his book Caina published by Mockingbird Lane Press of Maynard, Arkansas.
Albanese skillfully sets the time, place and background beginning with the first breath of the brothers who are named Grant and Lee after the Civil War generals because their dad is a Civil War buff. The symbolism of the names is carried throughout the one-hundred-sixty-four- page book divided into the twenty-five chapters. The brothers make opposite choices but no matter if they are together or not, they connect by both a misunderstanding of who the other is and a confidence of the deep connection they have to each other. They mirror each other.
Although the older brother, Grant, was born first, his brother’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. The reader is privy to this information on the first page of chapter one. However, Albanese illustrates the brother’s relationship by opening the first chapter with:
When my brother and I were ten-years-old, we would play this game of chicken. Once a week, while our mother was preparing dinner, the two of us would sneak out oof our back yard and run across the field to the train tracks, kicking dandelions on the way.
The boys would try to out last each other as the train bore down on them with its loud horn. The narrator, Lee, admits his brother always won.
From Lee’s perspective, his brother was always the larger than life more successful person. Then, a twist of events leads to Grant’s death; the identical twin, Lee, steps in as his brother and discovers all the things and much darkness he did not know his brother was living.
Albanese ends the story on the train track with Lee’s dead brother sending him a message. Lee has a vision of his brother on the other side of tracks and Lee believes he finally understands what his brother was trying to tell him in life.
The chapters are filled with double entendre after double entendre in keeping with the twin theme and the story of doble lives in the same space. An example of this is in chapter twenty.
Lee Tolen has been dead for weeks…
It wasn’t Lee who had died…it was Grant. When they pulled the evidence from the box, it was Grant’s id in the wallet. Yet, to complicate things, the very alive Lee is standing in the room with the killers of his brother.
Even though at one point the devoted brothers had not seen each other for ten years, their parallel lives intersected at the end and closes the story on the train tracks where it had begun.
Albanese has created characters who are interesting and believable using an old universal theme of twins. He makes it work quite well. This is a good read on a cold winter evening.
Joe Albanese has been widely published including poetry, short fiction and nonfiction across The United States and in seven other countries. He is the author of Smash and Grab in addition to Caina. He lives in South Jersey.
Caina can be found here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/caina-joe-albanese/1128942876
Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.