Summary Review: This is a heartwarming and wise parable about redemption and healing wrapped up in a beautiful, if bittersweet love story.
A Guest Review by Feliz
The Blurb: It may be better to have loved and lost, twice, than never loved at all, but it sure as hell gets lonely. Jamison Severs is sitting in a bar contemplating his past as a failed lover, failed doctor, failed drunkard, and a fading old man, trying to find a reason not to lift that glass. Then a beautiful blond boy walks in the door, bringing reminders of Jamie’s past with him. Meeting the son of Jaime’s former lover, Toller, brings back the good old days, and the bad. And maybe it’s finally time for Jamie to come to terms with all the things that brought him and Toller together, and the things that broke them apart.
The Review: Jamieson Severs was an ER doctor once, in a happy relationship with a fellow doctor, Henri. Until his lover died and left Jamie behind to drown his grief and loss in alcohol. Now, after losing his medical license, Jamie is a full-time drunkard whose ultimate ambition is drinking himself slowly to death. He’s been going about this for a while already when he literally stumbles upon a homeless youth. Toller is so sick he’s almost on the verge of death when Jamie finds him. Only barely aware of what he’s doing, acting on the last wisps of his doctor’s instincts, Jamie takes Toller home and, when the boy refuses to go to a hospital, nurses him back to health on his own.
Over the course of next weeks and months as Toller’s body slowly heals, a tentative relationship forms between the thirtyish man and the eighteen-year-old boy. But Toller is psychicallybruised as well as physically, and his soul takes far longer to heal – and demands even more from Jamie. Far more than he was prepared to give, for when Toller will leave eventually, he’s going to take Jamie’s heart away with him. But Jamie also gets back far more from Toller than he could ever have expected, and in the end, it might be a different kind of love that can ultimately heal Jamie as well.
As the author said it herself, this is not a romance, though it has romantic elements and, not to be forgotten, some hot erotic scenes. This story is all about hurt/ comfort and the healing powers of love, and yet it’s as different from the usual similarly-themed fare as night from day. Where other stories use the “if you love it, set it free” trope merely to create some angst in preparation of the big reunion, this story follows through with it to the bitter end. I found this admirably consequent, realistic, and very, very well done. Convincing, too – it fits both characters to the minute detail.
Although the characterizations were as consistent as the plot, I had slight problems with the character of Jamie. Though he changed from a self-pitying, self-destructive Saulus to a mature, reasonable Paulus, and though this process was beautiful to watch, he lost me later with his self-inflicted loneliness. Some kind of love/hate issue with a character, I guess, and it was probably only me, but I just don’t do martyrs. It was really mostly the way he interacted with Heath, Toller’s son, what saved Jamie for me.
Toller, on the other hand, was fantastic. Given room to grow, he unfolded like a flower, and I could totally believe him turning into the proud, self-sufficient man as who he was pictured in the end. He’s someone who doesn’t want nor need charity, but can accept a generous gift with grace and put it to the best use, his own and the giver’s. A personality you’d like to see your own kids grow up to be.
The writing was gripping, smooth and well-paced; the story pulled me in right from the first sentence. Toller’s dreadful past isn’t glossed over, but revealed little by little, which made it bearable for me – alongside with the characters. Again, very well done. And if the forefinger of morale shows time and again, what about it? It fits the story. If I have one niggle it was that the characters had to suffer so much – I wanted to shout, too much! – even if I’m aware there are even worse fates out there.
This isn’t a light and fluffy read, the book deals with serious issues like loss of loved ones, AIDS, rape, abuse, and addiction, and it DOES have a nontraditional (though hopeful and positive) ending. It was still a beautiful story, and it certainly will stay with me for a long time. Warmly recommended.