It’s not easy being identical twins with a perfect brother. When the Tolan twins’ mother dies, Lee and Grant, wanting nothing more to do with each other, say goodbye—forever. Years later, when Lee is caught up in debt to a few drug gangs, he seeks the one person who might be able to help him: his successful businessman of a brother. But when Lee finds Grant dead on his bedroom floor, he comes up with another idea to escape his troubles. With best friend Pete and his crush Angela by his side, will Lee find a way through his troubles or end up digging an even deeper hole, putting himself and his friends in mortal danger?
I received this book from the author for the purpose of this review. All comments and opinions are entirely my own.
I love a good sibling rivalry story—mainly because there is usually a reconciliation at the end. But with Caina, there is no hope for reconciliation between Lee and Grant as Grant is, well, dead. All this to say, I was first captivated by this synopsis of Caina and second, upon receiving the book from the author in the mail, I was pleased to see that the author had typed me up a letter of thanks. I will admit it was because of this letter that I kept reading.
The first two pages of Caina were amazing. I was immediately swept into the plot and sympathized with Lee’s feeling of inferiority to the perfect Grant. Albanese’s descriptions of their childhood together were vivid and realistic. But as soon as the story caught up to present-day, I was bombarded with a flood of cursing and innuendos. I pushed on for a couple chapters, but as a conservative Christian, I didn’t like having all those curse words floating in my mind as I read in bed before going to sleep.
So I considered dropping it. But as I mulled it over in my head, Joe Albanese’s words to me in his thank you note kept coming back. He’d said he was just so thankful to have someone reading his book, even if I decided not to review it in the end. I was touched because that’s the way I feel when I ask someone to read my self-published novels. So even though Albanese and I are very, very different writers, we still share something in common—that desire to be read.
So I kept reading and finished it. Here are my main thoughts:
The transitions were often abrupt. I got accustomed to it after a few chapters, but those first few were difficult to read. One paragraph the characters would be one place and the next paragraph they’d be somewhere else with no indication they’d decided to even go to that next destination. Also, there were many illogical conclusions. Several times, something would happen and Lee would jump five steps in logical thought to reach a certain conclusion, basically making assumptions that I would never have made given the information he (or I) had. There were also a lot of things about the plot that were explained to me too late and I just didn’t understand how/when we had learned that information.
I didn’t like Lee at first. He had no ambition or drive. And when he found out his brother was dead, he was not remotely sad about it. Not only that, he immediately decided to take on Grant’s identity and basically sell his brother’s body (as his own) to a drug gang and let them dump Grant’s body in the river. Who does that?!
But as the story developed, and Lee found out what really happened to Grant and what Grant had been doing all these years, Lee’s feelings toward his twin slowly changed. There was one scene in particular in the middle of the novel where Lee has a dream about his brother. His brother is on the train tracks they used to jump off of when a train was coming when they were young. There was something very mystical and mysterious about the scene, which reminded me of the first two pages I had liked so much. This was the potential I believe Albanese’s story could have had had the plot not revolved around drug gangs.
I will say that I was touched at the end when certain things about Grant were revealed and decisions were made based on those realizations. Especially when Lee realized what a great brother he’d always had and that he’d just been too blinded by jealousy to see it.
In conclusion, I would have given Caina two stars because of the cursing and innuendos, but because of Lee’s character development and the elements/scenes involving the train tracks (Albanese knows what I mean—I loved how he used the metaphor with the train tracks!) I give Caina three stars. However, this rating is given with a warning for very mature content and my recommendation that only readers 18 and older read it. In the end, I think this book was not meant for a young woman in her twenties, and in the right person’s hands, would have been well-loved.
Valerie Cotnoir graduated from homeschooling in 2016. She is currently studying for a BA in History through online courses with Lumerit Education while working part time at the preschool at her church. Valerie was born in Montreal, Canada, but lived for fourteen years in Plano, Texas before moving with her family to the Raleigh area in North Carolina. She is the oldest of four and has two sisters and one brother. She’s been writing since she could hold a pencil and reading books just as long. She loves having deep conversations about theology, books and movies with friends and family. Her favorite memory verse is and has been for many years John 16:33:
“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”