Title: The Cranberry Hush
Author: Ben Monopoli
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Leslie
In a nutshell: A beautifully written story with a unique, but realistic twist on coming-of-age and gay-for-you.
Vince Dandro might be going through the quietest quarter-life crisis of all time. He lives alone, works at a comic book shop, and has a crush on his coworker he can’t seem to act on. His life is just fine, but only just fine. Everything changes when Vince’s long-lost friend Griff shows up at his house in the middle of a blizzard. They were roommates in college, so close back then that Griff’s girlfriend called them “lifebuddies”—but Vince’s love for Griff ended the friendship, he thought, forever. They haven’t spoken in years. Why has Griff shown up again? And, more importantly, can Vince handle his return?
Vince and Griff are two twentysomethings struggling to find their places in the world and in each other’s lives. This is a story of friendship and love, both unrequited and requited, and learning how to fly through the post-college void, where sometimes the only sound you can hear is The Cranberry Hush.
I love discovering self-published gems and this is my latest great find. It’s a wonderful story and beautifully written. I buzzed through it in one day and in the days since have been savoring favorite passages. Anyone who follows my reviews knows that “instant re-read” is the highest compliment I can pay a book.
I am going to keep this review short and to the point because I really don’t want to give too much away. This is one of those stories that is about discovery so part of the reading experience is having information revealed in real-time with the characters. I want other readers to have the same pleasure of not knowing that I did.
The story is told from Vince’s first person POV and evolves over the course of a week with flashbacks to his college years with Griff. They need to sort out what was between them and more importantly, what went wrong—and see if they can fix it. There’s not a lot of action although there are a few funny scenes. Mostly it’s poignant and nostalgic—in short, the type of story I love.
Vince and Griff and a third main character, Zane, are very well drawn. They are complex characters with very real emotions that even I, a woman old enough to be their mother, could relate to. I will admit that I have a twentysomething son who seems to be struggling with his own “post-college void” so in that respect, the story was very personal to me. Even so, I remember those years immediately after college and the challenge of trying to find my way in life and the world. I could definitely empathize with Vince and Griff.
Monopoli’s writing is lovely. This is one of those books that every word feels right. His descriptions are creative and authentic and bring the characters, locales (Cape Cod and Boston), and settings (Vince’s house, the comic book shop where he works) vividly to life. Griffin has synesthesia and feels his emotions in colors which made the entire story feel tinged with color. It was a writing device that was very well done. For anyone who is curious, that’s where the title comes from, too.
As for sex and all that? There’s not too much. This is much more of a love story. The characters talk about sex but actual on-page action is pretty sparse which frankly, I think was another pitch-perfect decision by the author.
All in all, this was a wonderful book and it is a pleasure to recommend it. Because it is self-published, it has only limited availability at the moment (Amazon in Kindle format; Barnes and Noble as an epub). I did write the author and asked if he plans to make other formats (PDF and HTML) available. At the moment he said no, but he is open to exploring other options. Keep in mind that you can download Kindle and Nook apps for other devices (iPad, smartphones, PCs) so even if you don’t have an ereader, you still should be able to access this book. Trust me, even if it takes a little effort, it will be worth it in the end!