Title: Sockeye Love
Author: Sarah Black
Cover artist: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner press
Amazon: Buy Link Sockeye Love
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: Novella (72 pages)
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: This lovely story about moving on from losing an old love made me cry and made me realize once again why I love Sarah Black’s writing so much.
Wildlife photographer Grey Morisette is living a half-life, quietly mourning his lover, Saya Khin, who disappeared twelve years earlier into the infamous Insein Prison in Rangoon.
Grey takes a picture of Sal Sanchez falling into an Alaska river with a sockeye salmon in his arms. Sal’s a law student, and his passion for the environment and love for the native tribes, his beautiful young face and eager hands, cannot be ignored. But there isn’t room in Grey’s heart for two lovers. How can he bear to let Saya Khin go, after loving him so long, and reach out for the love Sal is offering him?
I always thought that Sarah Black is one of the masters of the shorter form in this genre, and it feels like she tops her best effort with every story she publishes. This one was no exception for me. The writing is so, so beautiful in this one and I felt like the sentences were singing to me. Just listen to this passage closer to the end of the story:
The sky was the color of blackberries, the stars so thick and close he thought he could reach up and grab a handful.
Two of the main themes in this story are grief and hope. Grey cannot move on from the arrest of his lover in Burma twelve years before despite him understanding that Khin is most likely dead. Since he does not know for sure, however, he keeps hoping and he has been living a half-life for those many years when story begins. It made so much sense to me, because more than once in my life I had learned that when they say “hope dies last”, they are indeed correct, and more than once throughout the story I wished that Grey would have received that final certainty that his beloved is indeed no longer here. Goodness, his hope made me cry and more than once while I was reading it, but I want to stress that it felt very true to me, very recognizable and realistic.
When he’d started writing to Khin again, he’d settled down into his current muted state of being, sleeping with anyone who had hiking boots and a willing penis, and saving his love away, like a secret gift, for a man who was probably already dead.
I want to mention that I very much appreciated that the situation in Burma is one of the things explored in this novella — or maybe I should say novellette, since it barely took me an hour to read it. It is not a public service announcement by all means, but an integral part of the storyline in connection to the loss of a loved one. I just appreciated knowing where Grey’s lover got lost, if that makes sense? Perhaps appreciated is the wrong word here, but I guess I was glad that the horrible situation in another country was weaved in the story so well. It does not take too much of page space, but this writer definitely has a gift of saying a lot with very few words.
Sal jumps into Grey’s life under circumstances that are described in the blurb and refuses to let go, no matter how hard Grey tries to convince himself that it is just sex. I really liked Sal, somebody who is young and brave and energetic, and somebody who really wants to do good for the people and for the environment we live in. He seems to have all the solutions in the world to world’s biggest problems as all young people do.
I thought their chemistry together was charming, but because Grey’s love for his lost boyfriend was portrayed so movingly, I was not sure whether at the end of the story I believed that Grey and Sal will stay together. It felt very open to me, perhaps more of a HFN? Of course, it is very realistic that Grey will be moving on from the kind of love he shared with Saya very slowly and painfully, and it is probably meant to be viewed that way. While I do think this story is perfect the way it ended, at the same time I could not help but wish for more certain ending, but hey that’s a lover of the happy endings talking. After all, Grey rushes to save Sal from being tangled in cactus. 🙂
Highly recommended, but grab some tissues.