Title: Gardens of Hope : A Novel
Author: Michael Holloway Perronne
Publisher: Chances Press, LLC
Release Date: December 23, 2016
Genre(s): M/M Historical
Page Count: 236
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Can two men from the same city but segregated worlds maintain a connection during a time in US history that not only brands one of them as the enemy but denies that a love such as theirs exists?
On the surface, Jack appears to have all a man in World War II era 1941 could want with his solid middle-class background, upcoming college graduation, and the perfect, devoted fiancee. But one night when he accidentally stumbles upon a shadow life of men who desire other men in a Downtown Los Angeles park, he begins to realize exactly what has always left him with a feeling of emptiness.
Despite the constant danger of being arrested by vice cops, Jack continues to visit the park every chance he has to feel a connection, no matter how fleeting, with another man. One night he meets a handsome and charismatic Japanese-American, Hiro, who appears to want more than a quick encounter, and Jack surprises himself by starting to truly fall in love for the first time.
However, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9066 and orders the mandatory relocation of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans, who have never been charged with a crime, to far flung internment camps sites. Jack and Hiro suddenly find themselves torn apart before their secret, fledgling romance can blossom.
Desperate to find and reconnect with Hiro, Jack accepts a high school teaching position at an internment camp in the California desert, Manzanar. There, surrounded by armed guard towers and a prison-like environment, Jack begins to fully realize the injustices being faced by Japanese-Americans during one of the most controversial times of United States history and shifts his world view- forever.
Los Angeles, December 1941. Jack attends a local teacher’s college, works at his family’s jewelry store, and is engaged to Sally, an All-American girl who is also planning to become a teacher. Jack loves her, but knows he hasn’t fallen in love with her. Jack also knows he is attracted to men but can’t imagine an accepting society where he could have a life with a man. The evening of December 7th, Jack meets Hiro in Pershing Square Park, a local gay cruising spot, and is smitten with the beautiful Japanese man, who is studying linguist arts at UCLA. They meet only a few times, but Jack knows his life has changed forever:
So that had been what people meant when they talked about magical first kisses and developing instant crushes. All of these types of emotions had been buried deep inside me, and I hadn’t even known I was capable of them. […] Suddenly I found myself crying tears of happiness mixed with sorrow for the life I had felt the need to invent despite not being true to my heart. How could I go back to that world getting a glimpse of … knowing … and feeling … what I did now?
In February of 1942, Hiro and his family become part of the 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry relocated to internment camps, going to Manzanar in the California desert about 230 miles from LA. Jack takes a teaching job at Manzanar and oh-so-briefly reunites with Hiro, “in a place that would change me and shake my worldview for the rest of my life.”
Jack’s story is framed by current day events – Jack and his grand-nephew Tate attend the opening of the Manzanar Interpretive Center and on their long drive, Jack relates his story. When they arrive at Manzanar, Jack meets Lily, Hiro’s sister, and finally learns what happened to Hiro all those years ago.“Gardens of Hope” is a beautifully-written story that is equal parts heart-wrenching and life-affirming. There are no on-page sex scenes, but the love between Hiro and Jack permeates every page. The author deftly leads us through to an ending that might have been “hokey” in less-talented hands, but is perfect. Honestly, I sobbed through the ending of this story the first time I read it, and the second time as well. I highly recommend “Gardens of Hope : A Novel.”
Buy Link Amazon Global Author Link GoodReads More Author Reviews