Title: Jonathan’s Garden of Eden
Author: Edward von Behrer
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary m/m/m
Length: Short Story (39 pdf pages)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary review: With the help of two wonderful friends, inhibited Jonathan learns to break free of his shell and to take his life in his own hands.
The Blurb: Properly-brought-up Southern boy Jonathan Lattimore doesn’t begin to question his family’s expectations until his parents come to visit him in New York City. Faced with their blatant disapproval of his lifestyle, Jonathan listens to a friend’s urging to cut their apron strings. This year, rather than using his vacation time to return home, Jonathan takes a half-share in a summer house on Fire Island. The “gay Garden of Eden” may be very different than the one he learned about in Sunday school, but as Jonathan discovers, the freedom it offers comes close to his idea of paradise.
The Review: When Jonathan first learns about the Garden of Eden, he’s four years old and listening to the Sunday sermon. What impresses him most is not the Fall, not even the snake, but the fact that in the Garden of Eden, people run around naked AND outdoors. Wow! Young Jonathan would LOVE to try this! But as young as he is, Jonathan is aware of the fact that his pious parents would NEVER approve of that. He’d better not even think of asking. In fact, the way Jonathan is brought up, everything that isn’t expressly allowed is forbidden and will result in going straight to hell.
This principle was so deeply ingrained in him that even twenty-two years later, even though he’s left his Southern home long ago and is living as an openly gay man in New York, Jonathan still can’t stop play good little boy. Jonathan hasn’t come out to his parents, but he knows that they suspect something. Still he spends all his holidays at home, immersed in their disapproval, trying to please them. It takes a not-so -gentle nudge from a friend until Jonathan manages to break this pattern, taking his vacation on Fire Island instead of home. Sharing a house with a number of other gay men, Jonathan meets Sean and Giovanni, a committed couple. Watching them and talking to them gives Jonathan something to think about. For the first time in his life, Jonathan attempts to get to the bottom of his entrenched habits. As Jonathan dares to pluck the apple from his very own tree of knowledge, he finds out that he really doesn’t care about falling from his parents’ grace, since he already has, and will never do right by them except if he turned into their carbon copy, which he can’t and won’t.
I really enjoyed this story. Jonathan was a likeable, realistic character. Despite his strict upbringing, and the fact he followed his parents’ wishes regarding his field of profession rather than giving in to his childhood dream of being a painter, he had the courage to make his own living in a strange city. Even though he hides his sexuality from his parents, he is otherwise untroubled of being gay. He was more or less caught in a learned pattern of behavior that made him unhappy; it was all there, and it took only a little help from his friends to point him into the direction of his own way. On Fire Island, apart from his oppressive past and surrounded by his “chosen family” of friends, Jonathan comes to see that the door to his cage has always been open; he dares to reach for the freedom he’s always had and is rewarded with happiness.
This story told about growing up and making one’s own way in life almost like a parable, but without the wagging finger of morale. It had delightful Italian food, funny moments, joy de vivre and thoughtfulness, all in good measure, and the steaming hot, affectionate sex scenes certainly didn’t hurt. I’d consider the half hour or so you’d take to read this time very well spent.