A guest review by Leslie
Wondering where the blurb is? I didn’t include it because 1) it completely misses the point of this book and 2) it contains a huge spoiler which totally ruined the build-up to the main part of the story that occurs in the first one-third of the book. If you decide you want to read this book based on this review (and I would be flattered if you do, but more importantly, it’s very good and I can easily recommend it) then use this link, which will take you to the order page at Dreamspinner. Shade your eyes and avoid the synopsis…or maybe have someone else order the book for you!
I’ll be honest—spoiler type blurbs and reviews usually don’t bother me. I read tons of reviews before reading a book or seeing a movie. But really, this is a book is best read “cold” without a lot of pre-knowledge. It needs to unfold on its own to be totally enjoyed, in my opinion.
So now my challenge is to write a spoiler-free review that will entice you to read this book. Hmmm…is saying it is very good enough? No, you want more detail? Okay, I’ll try.
This is a book about Charlie Kirby. From two brief prologues, the reader learns that Charlie’s mother died when he was 17, and a few years later, when he was a student at the university, he met a man named Jesse. These events occurred in the eighties.
Flash forward to the present when the story proper begins. Charlie is in a bookstore buying a book from a new author whose writing he really likes. He goes home and settles into his favorite chair, losing all track of time. He forgets that he has a blind date that evening, arranged by his neighbors and good friends, Beth and Deanna. Apparently, Charlie did get together with Jesse, and they shared many happy years, but now Jesse is gone; he died two years prior. (As an aside, we eventually find out how Jesse died, but it is a slow build up and careful reveal, which is the way the whole book is written. It is sort of like peeling away the layers of an onion which is why I believe it is best to read the book knowing very little. It allows us, as readers, to be surprised with every turn of the page.) Charlie is trying to take the steps necessary to move forward and move on but it’s hard—he had a wonderful relationship with Jesse and he’s not sure he can ever find that kind of love again—or if he even wants to.
Charlie teaches high school and enjoys his job. He also volunteers at a local prison, teaching GED courses to inmates so that they might get a high school diploma. Both of these activities are very important components of Charlie’s life.
That’s about as far as I want to go with specifics. Like I said, you really need to let this story unfold on the page and not know what is going to happen. It’s better that way. Trust me.
I love character driven stories and this is very much Charlie’s story. He’s a thoughtful, kind man who has experienced some events that anyone would call challenging. But he has managed to process this information, integrate it into his life, and move on. When the story begins, he is doing the same thing with the loss of his 20+ year lover and making progress. Then life throws a few obstacles in his path, and Charlie has to figure out how to cope.
The story was completely absorbing. I started reading it at 8 am. At 2 pm in the afternoon, I realized I was still at my kitchen table, wearing my bathrobe, not bathed, not dressed, and devouring this book. It pulled me in that strongly. For me, this happens rarely. In fact, I found I could identify with Charlie, who sat in his comfy chair and lost track of time. It happened to me, too.
That said, it’s not a perfect book, but my criticisms are minor. For example, character names are way, way, way too often repeated. In real life, we don’t say someone’s name in every single sentence; this book needed an editor to X out the totally overused names. Also, there were a few “sort of” plot lines that were introduced and went nowhere—they should have been exorcised. But the core of the story was well written and truly felt and that is why you should read this book.
There is a bit of angst (well, quite a bit, actually) and you may find yourself reaching for the tissues a time or two, but it is realistically presented and honest to the characters. Even if you say, “I don’t do angst!” you should give this book a try because it’s worth it in the end as a very satisfying read.
D.W. Marchwell is a new author to me. This is his second novel; his first is Good to Know which I will be seeking out to read (and maybe review here, since it hasn’t been reviewed yet). If you read that and liked it, then I am sure you will definitely like this. If not, then here is a chance to discover a new author. If you like contemporary, modern, realistic love stories (a love story, to me, is a higher compliment than romance) then give this one a go. I definitely recommend it.
NB: I realize I didn’t give a lot of specifics. Just so you know, this story does not contain any violence, gore, rape, incest, M/F sex, ménage, etc. Two characters have had tragic things happen in the past and they talk about their memories but that is about it for the potential squick factor stuff and instant reader turn-offs.
If you have questions or comments, leave them here and I’ll try to answer without giving anything away.