Phil's romantic life is told through the series of men in his life, from friends to lovers, and by the cultu...moreReview posted at Brief Encounters Reviews.
Phil's romantic life is told through the series of men in his life, from friends to lovers, and by the cultural markers and progression of HIV/AIDS through the past 25 years. The story starts in 1985. Phil is a new English professor, and his best friend Jonathan is dying of AIDS. Forced to become a caregiver, the daily reality of the "gay disease" is at war with his own need and hope of finding Mr. Right. And even though he doesn't seem to know any other way of doing that but by the culture of excessive sex, he wants to find his soul mate more than anything.
I wouldn't categorize this as romance, though it is a romantic story and about the search for love and more than anything Philip's need for love. He goes through much of life alone, despairing of finding "the one" but still hopeful over the years. Fast forward ten years, and Philip meets Joshua, who seems to be everything he's looking for.
The beauty in this story is in the way that it doesn't shy away from harsh detail -- especially in the first part of the story. Phil's time as a caretaker for his friend shape the way that he sees and understands life, and the detail of the shit and vomit and tears and fear isn't passed over, though it also isn't dwelt upon. Though I've read little in the way of memoir of the time from gay men, this felt that way to me whether it is or isn't. The prose is saturated with real feeling and especially fear that is rooted in the uncertainty of the time and placed in history by memorable social landmarks (Reagan, the death of Rock Hudson).
The format of the story -- scenes in time that span several decades -- leads to a sense that the story is told in retrospect, yet without relying on retrospective melodrama. The scenes felt present in place and time to me, but I could also read the subtle cues left by Phil, the narrator as to how to feel about a situation or character. The was somewhat important later in the story, as Phil narrates through the minefield of his romantic life and the men that enter and leave it in various means.
This is an author I'll watch out for. I'm really happy that I took a chance to read this story and I won't let it be the last I'll read by this author. And it's a story that I think everyone else deserves to read as well. Definitely Recommended!(less)
This is a book that I want everyone I know to read!
I've been eyeing this book for a while, especially altering seeing some great reviews. I think I was most intrigued because this book is about a different side of gay marriage that I've read before. From the very first page, I was in love Steven's voice.
It all starts when Steven starts to notice Adam changing. They've been partners for about 7 years, and they generally seem like the perfect couple -- they have two children (well, cats), they watch old movies together, and they are similar and different in all the right ways -- essentially, they're quietly compatible. Steven's nature is to let Adam's changes slide until he starts to get freaked out that something really, no really serious is going on. Then, Adam decides to take action. He's tired of planning weddings for people when he can't have a "real" one of his own.
They decide to do what they can to spread their message. Steven uses his column with The Gay New York Times to spread their message and implore those who agree to boycott the wedding industry. Unfortunately, at about the same time as the column goes live, Adam's sister and Steven's brother who have been dating for a while now decide to get married. What do they do? The problems really start to escalate when people catch onto their message, driving a huge wedge between their families.
Told through Steven's publicly quiet demeanor but inner snarky voice, The Marrying Kind doesn't let up from the moment the story starts. Steven's narration switches consistently from present quick paced wit to memory, history, and cultural references, all offering some insight to the present. His voice is so funny that I laughed out loud throughout the entire book and was marking passages on my Kindle over and over.
The activism in this novel might be the spark, the catalyst that sets everything in motion and the undercurrent that keeps it moving forward. It also holds a huge message for readers. That message is achieved, though, through the shifting familial ties and family dysfunction that laces them all together. It's a bit like looking at two sides of a coin -- when the shit hits the fan, everyone is facing everyone else's ugly sides. It's the way that families are, and I really have to give this author props, especially for such a resounding job in his first novel. I always admire authors who can truly juggle a large cast, without dropping anyone and continually interlacing their actions and emotions throughout the group. This author does that really well here, usually offering Steven as the observer, quietly narrating (with his own hilarious commentary) as it all happens. The fact that the story never loses sight of the fact that they're a family, a truly mashed up American family, takes the story from admirable to heartwarming.
There is really a lot to recommend about this romantic comedy. New York City is almost a second character and I love when authors really get that right. The voice of Steven is pivotal to the story. Despite bringing all the charm and quirky insight to the story, the events could have turned the tone a bit depressing in another character's point of view. Instead, Steven is constantly avoiding the real issues with anything he can think of until he truly has to face them. The secondary characters really sparkle, especially in ensemble settings.
I really think this is a book that people will love and I hope that more people hear about it. I know I'll be doing my best to recommend it to everyone I know!
This is the first story I've read by George Seaton, though I've heard many wonderful things about his writing. Th...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
This is the first story I've read by George Seaton, though I've heard many wonderful things about his writing. This story isn't romance, but I think it speaks to the Father's Day theme in a way that the other's don't. While most reflect bringing a child into a gay relationship, this story focuses on one father and one son, now into adulthood. And though the story doesn't specifically explore the relationship that the narrator shares with his partner, David, the relationship is nevertheless reflected through the differences between the narrator at present his reflections about himself as a teenager.
The dynamic between fathers and sons bears a heavy importance, but those dynamics are just as varied and important between gay men and their fathers. For a gay man there is an added need for acceptance from his father when so much importance is placed on masculinity. The narrator of The Card shares his memories of a specific time in his formative years that is expressed outwardly in the events at the time. Set on the week of Father's Day of 1965, the narrator brings together the story of a disastrous flood, a local murdered girl, and the detective that solved her case, the narrator's father. He's a well known figure, silent and somewhat imposing, extremely strong and with a cop's fine-honed sixth sense. The narrator exists in his shadow as these events converge, the loss of innocence along with disastrous flood, just as he is exploring and learning about his own sexuality. Seen through the narrator's 15 year old eyes, his father is a hero, and even though he doesn't accept praise or even really talk to his own family, the narrator decided to leave his father a card, telling him that he's proud of him. These events are shown as almost compounded over the years into a well-rehearsed story. So when he finds the card he wrote his father, and something written on it that he hadn't noticed in all that time, his world and believe in his own story is rocked to the foundation.
This story really does a good job setting up the often awkward dynamic between father and gay son that I think is often typical. They don't really understand each other and they've formed a family that doesn't have any cohesion. They rarely talk, they don't know a lot about each other and what is happening in their lives. I liked the juxtaposition of the narrator's secret fumblings with another boy while his father is out saving the day. He seems to understand his father's job in an abstract way, until his father is awarded a medal of bravery for saving two teenage boys from drowning in the swollen river. The narrator is pretty aware that his father seems to have a sixth sense about things and he knows that his father understands just what is going on behind closed doors and that if anyone knew he was gay his father would. The times his father is shown to really use the cop sense is either to save two young boys or to witness the loss of innocence. At the same time, Mother Nature's massive flood and river is like a battering ram into their old lives and structure, representing a dirty, messy purge of sorts. All of the events drawn together at the same time allow for the father and the son to remake themselves. The son does, in his way, it is the real beginning of his discovery of life and himself. The other half seems to get lost in the mess.
I appreciated this story at this time of year. As a gay man I think I understood this dynamic very well with my own father, though these relationship dynamics are certainly universal. Even as the story ends and the narrator is now grown and in the present, I felt like he was on the verge of another transition, and the past mistakes, failures and memories allow him to go forward with open eyes, for the first time in his life. This story is really about the definition of fatherhood, and what it means to different people. It can also be read as a cautionary tale -- to move forward in life without regret. There is so much story and emotion and intent behind this author's words that I really felt like such a complicated relationship could be explained and explored in such a short length.
I will definitely be checking out more of this author's work in the future, and I definitely recommend this story if you're in the mood for a story that isn't a romance but definitely an exploration of the father/son dynamic. Me Like.(less)
A miraculous, healing story to hold close to your heart!
I've heard many, many wonderful things about this book over the last month or so. Josephine My...moreA miraculous, healing story to hold close to your heart!
I've heard many, many wonderful things about this book over the last month or so. Josephine Myles wrote a wonderful review that caught my interest after Chris directed me there, and became my personal cheerleader -- saying, "read it now! read it now!". I found myself very lucky then, to be one of the recipients of the GoodReads giveaway and received my paperback copy from Edmond in the mail last week, along with a beautiful note and a yummy, gooey, finger-licking, savorlicious nut roll, that I promply ate on the way back from the mail-box. I mean, hey, I got a free book! But I also got free candy! Well, not candy ;)
So I found myself with a beautiful copy of a book that has probably gotten more 5 star reviews than I've seen before, memory full of sweet and salty goodness, and a personal cheerleader goading me on. How could I refuse?
This is a unique book to review, and I won't re-hash the blurb for you, because there's really no point. There's so much to say about it, yet the beauty of it is in the mystery. I constantly found myself with my pen marking favorite passages to enjoy later (I love marking up books! real books! it's been so long!), but unable to share them, because like an inside joke, no one but fellow Found King and Queen readers would understand them. Point 1 for Edmond Manning -- by reading, I've become complicit in the events of the book.
Because the real story is in the mystery of figuring out the story for yourself and your own personal journey with the characters, the story is a bit hard to describe to those who haven't yet read the book. I was talking to a friend who is also reading this book right now and the only way I could find to describe the story was this: "its... light-hearted on the surface but profound underneath, but it's like a great adventure. It... reminds me, at it's heart... of Max, in Where the Wild Things Are... It's like a great children's adventure for adults." There's a sense of wonder in the adventure, which sounds a bit hokey in summary, but through the character of San Francisco in the novel is laid out in a way that entices the senses.
I do want to talk to potential readers here, because I might not have picked this story up if not for Chris, my personal cheerleader, telling me not to be afraid of the Bittersweet label on this book. The only similarity this book as to Bittersweet books is the fact that there's no HEA. I don't think that's too much of a spoiler to give away as it is pretty well known. However, while this book is wildly romantic, it is also not technically a "romance." I'd rather think of it as gay fiction. It is a beautiful story that left me with a huge smile on my face and warmth in my heart, and no matter how hokey it sounds I'll growl it out like a wild bear :)
All I can say is that I think everyone should read this book, and I'm so happy that I have my very own paperback copy to read whenever I want. I imagine that this book will stay with me for a long time, and having it there to comfort me on a bad day, or remind me of all the good and wonder in the world when I really need it.(less)