Title: Songs for the New Depression
Author: Kergan Edwards-Stout
Publisher: Circumspect Press
Amazon: Buy Link Songs for the New Depression
Genre: Gay fiction
Length: 270 pages
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: A poignant and heartbreaking redemption story.
Gabriel Travers knows he’s dying; he just can’t prove it. Despite his doctor’s proclamations to the contrary and rumors of a promising new HIV drug cocktail, all it takes is one glance into the mirror to tell Gabe everything he needs to know. His ass, once the talk of West Hollywood, now looks suspiciously like a Shar-Pei, prompting even more talk around town.
Back in his 20’s, life had been so easy. Caught up in the 1980’s world of LOVE! MONEY! SEX!, Gabe thought he’d have it all. But every effort to better himself ended in self-sabotage, and every attempt at love left him with only a fake number, scrawled on a realtor’s notepad.
The only happiness he could remember was in high school, where he’d met Keith, his first love. Only Keith had recognized the goodness within, and knew of the brutal attack Gabe had faced, the effects of which still rule his life today.
Now almost 40, and with the clock ticking, Gabe begins to finally peel back the layers and tackle his demons — with a little help from the music of the Divine Miss M and his mom’s new wife, a country music-loving priest.
Inspired by his years of working at AIDS Project Los Angeles, as well as the loss of a partner to the disease, Songs for the New Depression mixes the contemplative styling of Michael Cunningham with the black humor of Augusten Burroughs
This is another book which I purchased based on Amazon’s recommendations and the fact that the reviews seemed stellar. I knew that the story would not be a walk in the park and would be a painful read, but for once I decided to endure.
Some of the reviews were right; once I started reading I could not stop, it was so engrossing, captivating, painful and at times funny. I finished the story crying, but I also felt that the author make me sympathize with Gabe, relate to him and his pain, believe in his desire to make amends to people he may have hurt with his judgmental, sarcastic attitude, but most importantly the author sold me on why Gabe became the person he was and why he protected himself with such thick walls around his heart. You know how sometimes you feel that a character is just making excuses for himself and he should have done better no matter what he endured in the past? Well, let’s just say that I did not feel that way; I understood how Gabriel’s past shaped his present, and my heart was breaking for him. And by the end of the book I actually respected him. This just felt so realistic and believable, and I felt that I was reading about a very real person — a real person who wanted to change, but was too set in his ways and couldn’t do it, but who still tried. And while he may not have done humongous things to become a better person, those things he did still counted — and counted a lot.
And note: while it has a couple of love stories weaved in, this story is NOT a romance and it does not have a traditional romance ending. That being said, love plays very important part in this book. Gabriel and Keith’s story was so beautiful, so hopeful and so very heartbreaking in many ways. But heartbreaking or not, I was still glad that Gabriel had Keith in his life. Additionally, I thought that the second love story was no less beautiful and just as important, signifying such important changes in Gabriel’s character. I don’t want to talk more about it for fear of giving it away, but I will just say that I was very pleased that it actually took place, no matter how short it was.
“But I’ve realised, slowly, through loving Jon, how gentle our hearts can be. How even a slight ache can persist, follow us, when the resolution is not at hand. And so my messages continued.”
Obviously the fight against AIDS is one of the main themes in the novel, but it is not written as a “Public Service Announcement.” We get to meet “real” people, who live and breathe and die from the terrible disease that nobody deserves. I guess while I am stating the obvious, I always felt that great fiction can transform any important issue and just make the reader emphasize with it stronger than if one was just reading a PSA.
I highly recommend this very well-written work, but have the box of tissues handy with you.