A Guest Review by Cole
Review Summary: A slow and heartwarming story about making a family, the joy of taking in and helping children, and keeping love alive.
Sequel to Good to Know
It’s been almost a year since William lost his parents and left the only life he knew for a new home in Canada. But now there’s nothing William loves more than being with his two new dads. His uncle Jerry McKenzie adopted him and then married David Loewenberger, and William is learning what it means to be part of a family.
But despite all the love and care the two men lavish on him, William is still lonely. It isn’t until he meets Cory, a high school student who is helping coach his soccer team, that William begins to think about what it would be like to have a brother. Little does he know that he might just get his wish, but first William will learn some very important lessons about love and loss.
Good to Know Series
An Earlier Heaven is the sequel to DW Marchwell’s book Good to Know (reviewed last week here).
We open to this sequel with Jerry, David, and William finally the family they always wanted to be and which they worked so hard to become. They are also officially on their way to being a family, as Jerry and David have since been married and David is in the process of formally adopting William as his son. Yet, though their dreams are coming true, they are far from living in paradise. Jerry’s art is still selling well but Kitty wants to promote him more and he absolutely hates the schmoozing that comes along with it. David is, of course, worried about everyone but himself. In particular, he’s worried about William and his development. In the year that William has come to live with Uncle Jerry and they’ve all become a family, he’s progressed leaps and bounds. Yet, though he’s highly intelligent, William seems to have a hard time making friends and David worries that he’s missing opportunities that other kids his age have. And William is worried about Cory, the only real new friend he’s made. Though Cory is sixteen and William only eleven, they’ve formed a brotherly bond, and William adores him. But Cory seems troubled. He is respectful and polite, but always seems to be alone. He talks about his mother — how she’ll be worried if he’s late and how he needs to leave so he can meet her, yet it isn’t long before they find out that his mother died a few years earlier. As David and Jerry start to investigate who Cory really is and if they should be worried for their son, rumors start to reach them — that Cory is a pothead, a drug dealer, and a juvenile delinquent that should be kept away from their son. The deeper David and Jerry search, however, the more they’ll discover. And it isn’t what they expected. They’ll need to decide if they have room in their home and hearts for another child — and the process of that decision is abound with pitfalls and roadblocks.
If you saw my review last week of Good to Know, you’ll know that I loved the story, but had a few problems with the editing and prose. None of those problems exist here. I was ready with my notepad and pen to mark any spots that I found redundant, or any head jumping. Instead I found myself three-fourths of the way through the book and I hadn’t made a single note. I was so into the story that after I plunged in I forgot to come up for air! An Earlier Heaven is refreshing for a number of reasons, but mostly because this story of what happens to your family after you’ve finally found it. How do you keep it? How do you nurture it so that it grows instead of trickles off into stagnation? This is the part of the story that, in this genre (or most genre fiction actually), we hardly ever get to see. This formula usually shows us the story up to the HEA, and then after it is over we move on to another one. We rarely see the real story, or the hardest part of real life — what it takes to keep something once you find it. This aspect of life is handled really well and made for a fascinating read about how wonderful enjoying the domesticity of a family can be. Jerry, for one, finds that he loves this. He never expected to want a family, much less find that it is the most fulfilling and enjoyable thing in his life. And David is made for keeping a family together. He is a nurturer, and together with Jerry, they make the perfect family for William.
The star character of this sequel is William, who previously wasn’t explored as much as I had hoped. We largely saw him from the outside in and rarely got a glimpse into the difficulties of his new life. He plays a large part here, as we see him struggle to understand the very adult situation that his friend Cory is going through and issues that he is finally starting to work through, like death. It made me remember when I was young and wanted to know everything that was going on even though I was too young to understand it. It is a difficult and confusing time for a kid and William’s emotions were certainly on a roller coaster in this novel. He is so sensitive and he worries about upsetting his fathers. His biggest worry, though, is Cory and why he can stay with them at one moment and not the next. He goes through a lot of disappointment and confusion, and though he must go through it in order for Jerry and David to help Cory circumvent the legal issues he’s going through, it’s very hard to watch.
The sex between David and Jerry was stepped up here as well, which I believe is the consequence of the intimacy that comes with working through a relationship and the day to day struggles of married life. They are still hot for each other, but its because they work as a team throughout the day. They really have each other’s backs. That makes the sex more powerful, emotional, and intimate. Sex scenes are often written a bit awkwardly with all action and stilted dialogue (“Want you/Need you/Unghhh” — You catch my drift). David and Jerry talk throughout sex and it really works. I feel like I’m getting to know them better during these scenes where they not only say “I love you,” but they say why. Ultimately, it made the sex hot and loving.
I really loved An Earlier Heaven and I think you guys will too! The pace is slow and steady, indicative of the day to day domesticity of their family. Yet, the plot with Cory is wonderful and heartbreaking, and I found myself growing to love him just as I had William, David, and Jerry. If you love family stories, be sure to pick this up. It is a treat!