Oh Jeffrey Lent, I think this is where we part ways.
Ever since I read Lent's first book, over 10 years ago, I've looked forward to reading new worksOh Jeffrey Lent, I think this is where we part ways.
Ever since I read Lent's first book, over 10 years ago, I've looked forward to reading new works from him. His second book, Lost Nation, blew my mind. But ever since then, I've struggled to connect with his writing, to the point where I couldn't even finish his last book.
Still, when I saw this one on Netgalley, I hit that request button immediately, because he earned so much good will from me for those first two, wonderful books.
But unfortunately, with this one I think he's lost me for good. Other readers have been describing this book as poetic and painterly, but for me it was just boring. Maybe that's just a failing of mine; I admit I have less patience than ever for long descriptions of nature and ruminations on good and evil and the nature of man (and woman).
Certainly there's very little plot to hang those meandering paragraphs on. The book begins with a crime that is explored and re-framed throughout as the circumstances surrounding it come to light, but it never amounts to much. Characters talk and talk some more about it, but no one really does much about it, and then it all comes to an extremely abrupt ending with next to no resolution. Now I know, my other failing as a reader is a desire for tidy endings, but honestly that's not even the problem here. I hadn't been paying attention to the page numbers and was shocked when I turned the page and found the Acknowledgments. I truly had no idea I was coming up on the end. Very unsatisfying.
I also have to say, the description of the book on goodreads is misleading. It says, "At the heart of the novel are two men: one who has committed a horrific act, but is slowly revealed to be a man of honor and integrity; the other, a seemingly righteous man of great spiritual dedication, whose lust for power within his community will eventually blind him to his own actions."
The "seemingly righteous man" is not one of the two protagonists of the book as this suggests, and it made me think for far too long that the second character who is truly at the heart of the book, August, was going to go down a dark path, which never happened.
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I cared very much for the two main characters, Jude and Willem, and cried (multiple times) atI have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I cared very much for the two main characters, Jude and Willem, and cried (multiple times) at the end. Usually if a book makes me cry it automatically gets 5 stars, but problems with the book's structure and plot kept me from truly loving this one.
The book's description calls it a "hymn to brotherly love" but really it's a romance between Jude and Willem. I loved how close they are, even before their friendship becomes romantic, and how committed Willem is to Jude, even though Jude is extremely damaged and sometimes hard to deal with.
It's the kind of book where you're always waiting for the other shoe to drop. And it always does. Hence the tears. But it also felt a bit manipulative -- every turn of the plot is designed to inflict more misery on the main characters. It's a soap opera to the extreme with one bad thing happening after another to the point where it seems beyond credible that so many terrible things could happen to one person.
As for structural issues, there are a few chapters at the beginning from the POVs of Jude and Willem's best friends that are unnecessary (and at 700+ pages that's a problem). And the periodic switch to 1st-person from yet another POV was initially confusing and strange.
But, I really did get invested in this book, and would recommend it to anyone in the mood for a tragic gay romance. ...more