Title: Falling Off the Face of the Earth
Author: JF Smith
Cover Artist: n/a
Publisher: Self published
Amazon: Buy Link Falling Off The Face Of The Earth
Genre: Contemporary Gay Fiction/Romance
Length: 694KB on Kindle
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: I was initially attracted to this story because of its low price, but despite its predictability I ended up liking it much more than I expected.
After his big-shot life in New York tragically falls apart, James Montgomery returns to his small hometown in south Georgia a defeated and broken man. All he has left is his mother to help him heal and regain his confidence before he’s ready to get back out and re-conquer the world.
But being big-city gay in a small southern town has its own challenges. In addition to coming to grips with what happened in New York, his hometown of Lawder throws its own curveballs at him. James is confronted with a bitter enemy from his school days, and frustratingly can’t seem to avoid the guy. His mother suddenly wants to expand the family. The one guy James takes a liking to and starts dating has a lot of hang-ups about being gay. And he watches almost helplessly as a new young bully starts to repeat the kind of abuse he suffered during his own school days.
Here where he grew up, the one place he should feel safe, James feels maddeningly off-balance. He starts to think that maybe going home was a bad idea after all. Maybe he’d be better off moving on and really starting over, completely from scratch. Maybe he should walk away from Lawder, just like he walked away from his life in New York.
But maybe, if he’d give it a chance, he’d re-think everything he ever thought he wanted out of life. And maybe what he thought was important, isn’t so important after all. Maybe he could have everything he never realized he wanted, if he just looked around himself for a moment.
I stumbled upon this one by accident, as one of Amazon recommendations to me. I saw the low price and the length of the book (it is very long, on my kindle it has a little over 9600 locations) and decided that for 99 cents I may as well try it.
In many ways it turned out to be a very predictable story and could have used better editing (such as some annoying typos), but in several other ways I was pleasantly surprised. The characters seemed quite well-drawn and memorable, and James, adjusting to the life in his home town and trying to get over traumatic events that happened to him in New York, was overall a sympathetic character. I wished more than once that some good editor would have cut the repetitive parts about James feeling like an outsider in anything that is taking place in the town of Lawder, because trust me, I got it after the first ten times he said it. However, despite what I just wrote, overall I did not end up wanting to slap James, quite the contrary. Maybe because after an initial period of time, he does not spend pages and pages telling us that he feels like outsider. Yes, those feelings do overwhelm him sometimes (okay, often) after he actually tries to fit in, or after he actually does things with his friends, or helping his mother with his extended family, for example, but the angst, even if it is repetitive sometimes, is not too long a page chunk at a time and it usually mixed in with something happening. I liked that James tried and tried hard, and that his efforts eventually succeeded.
And it was actually quite a pleasure to read about James forming friendships with local guys and them helping him as well. I was especially interested to read about James’ friendship with Brick. I would characterize their relationship as one step forward and two steps back, considering that they did not have the best past behind them. This relationship was actually another interesting development of a very familiar trope to me. I am not sure if I liked that Brick’s change of heart and character improvement was mostly told rather than shown because it happened before James returned to town, however it was extremely interesting to see how James sees New Brick versus Brick of his school days and how he notices all the differences. I really, really loved what we saw as Brick of today — insecure, regretful, and at the same time really changed man, who treats people around him well and actually has enough dignity to insist on the same treatment back.
Some of the secondary characters were also lovely. I loved James’ friendship with Cory, even if the story line could have been handled with more subtlety in my opinion. And James’ mother stole my heart from the first time she appeared on page.
In short it is what I would call a small town romance, with a lot of good people all around and the character getting one big happy family at the end. As a New Yorker, I did not care for the rather heavy contrast between good people in small town versus shallow people in New York in James’ thoughts, but you know how sometimes you want that Awwwww feeling at the end of the story? This one will surely provide it and with interesting characters. I enjoyed James and Brick’s journeys.