A guest review by Leslie
Aaron has no idea what he’s walking into when he shows up to pose for a famous—and famously bad-tempered—photographer. He certainly doesn’t expect to end up working as Jake’s assistant for five frustrating, thrilling, and crazy years instead of in front of the camera.
It all works until Jake realizes Aaron has become the focus of his life, a life that’s threatened when Aaron actually leaves him to start a relationship with someone else. Though it breaks his heart, Jake realizes he has to set his beloved muse free to have any chance of winning Aaron back.
Reprint: This short story was originally published in the Dreamspinner Press anthology Size Still Matters.
Thank you, Wave, for giving me this book to read and review. I will be forever grateful. It will be on my Top Ten List for 2010, of that I am sure. I can’t imagine reading ten better books in the next nine months. It may be on my lifetime Top Ten List, right up there with Almost Like Being in Love and Watership Down. Yes, I loved it that much.
Once again, it is a book where the blurb does not do it justice. After reading a string of mediocre-to-lousy books, I wasn’t expecting much when I cracked this one open. Three hours later, I was an emotional wreck, crying from happiness at the perfect ending, crying from unhappiness that the story was over, and howling in frustration because it appears that this is the only book that Giselle Ellis has had published. I note that this had previously been included in an anthology published in 2007. I am hoping that Dreamspinner has re-released this in anticipation of another book to be published by this author—or maybe to inspire her to pick up her pen again.
Anyway, to the story at hand. Aaron and Jacob (Jake) are two men who are so achingly, heart-breakingly in love that it almost hurts to read about it. Everyone around them knows it, but neither of them can admit it because they are desperately afraid of losing each other. Isn’t it better to be friends who are together than to be lovers who might drive each other apart? But the passion that is between them cannot be denied and after five years, things are reaching a boiling point, even though they don’t realize it.
Jake is a photographer and Aaron’s his assistant, but in name only. Actually, he’s a potter and the two of them work together in Jake’s large and airy studio on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. They are both talented and creative and a little bit insane, talking in a wild Aaron/Jake-speak (or Flip/Moz-speak, their nicknames for each other) that the author captured so well, I could hear them as if they were standing in the room with me. I desperately wished I could meet them but I know if I did/could I wouldn’t meet the characters on the page, because they existed in their own world, communicating in a private and secret way. At one point their connection was described like this by their friend, Alyson:
Neither one was paying the slightest bit of attention to the other, but Alyson was certain she could see a string of nearly invisible light connecting them. She stared at them and thought that if she had a pair of those giant novelty scissors they used to cut red ribbons at the openings of new businesses, she could walk over and sever that connection with one snap of her shears and Jake and Aaron would crash to the floor like puppets shorn of their strings. Both would falter and fall without that rope of support holding them up.
And in a way, that’s exactly what happens. Alyson doesn’t cut the string, Aaron does, and not intentionally, but the damage is done nonetheless. At one point, in anger, Aaron takes a baseball bat and smashes one of his pots into smithereens and it’s an apt metaphor for what faces them as friends—picking up the pieces of their shattered lives and attempting to put it all back together.
I sobbed through the middle third of the book but rest assured, the payoff is worth it. I wouldn’t give a DIK designation to a book that left me crying at the end for the wrong reasons. Getting to that point, however, is an emotional rollercoaster but hey, isn’t that what makes a book completely unforgettable? And re-readable?
The writing is fresh, funny, and insightful. At 37K words, this is a short novella. I wished it could be longer because I wanted more story, but it really is the perfect length. Every word worked. There wasn’t any extra padding or gratuitous sex scenes. It was right where it needed to be, just like Jake and Aaron were right where they needed to be, especially at the end.
I don’t read many books that I picture as a movie, but with Take My Picture, I did. It would be terrific on film with its Manhattan locales and the charismatic (and gorgeous!) characters of Jake and Aaron. In the hands of someone like Ang Lee? Hmm….In fact, this story brought to mind the old John Cusack film, Say Anything (I am probably dating myself here!). Read this story and tell me if you don’t think of Lloyd Dobler, his boombox, and the song, In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel.
When I’ve read a really good book, I often have an emotional letdown afterwards—sort of an irrational feeling that I’ll never read another book quite as good—I’ve just experienced the best it will ever be. It’s not true, of course, because I do go on and find other great books, but in the immediate aftermath, I am left with a sense of melancholy. With Take My Picture, it lasted for two days, which is a measure of just how much it affected me.
Buy this book. Read it. And Giselle Ellis, if you are somewhere out there in the world, write another book, please? I want to know what Flip and Moz are up to. I need them in my life.