A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: The life of a man is laid bare: his losses, his loves and, ultimately, his best and brightest hope for a lifetime of happiness.
Blurb: Mark Jennings is at a crossroads. His finance job in the Atlanta nonprofit scene stresses him out, his mother is dying, and his relationship with Brian Jacobs has crashed and burned. He needs a distraction, some way to relax, and a massage seems like just the thing. He never expected his massage therapist, Antonio Roberto, to become his best friend. Despite their differences—Antonio is a divorced single father—the two men forge a firm friendship that weathers Mark’s reconciliation with Brian and Antonio’s questionable taste in women. Over the years, Antonio remains constant in his support, though others in Mark’s life come and go through a revolving door. When a young boy runs away from the group home where he works, Mark finds another door opening. Through it all he holds on to the things his loved ones taught him—about family, about friends and lovers, about life and death. Most importantly, he realizes that sometimes the greatest gift of all is a second chance.
Review: Let me begin by saying that this novel, Second Chances, left me…breathless. Truly, I have never fallen harder for a character in my life. Mark Jenning’s voice resonated with something deep inside me and I was hooked from page one.
Mark was a man walking the edge. His mother was dying, half his family condemned him for being gay, and his boyfriend had cheated on him and walked out leaving him wounded and raw. But I don’t need to tell you how Mark felt–not when the author does it so very well on his own.
“What I really felt like doing was screaming, ‘Can’t you see I’m going under?’ Every step of every day felt like dragging my feet through mud. Like ghosting through the day in slow motion where either people saw me and gave me those fucking looks of pity, or didn’t see me bleeding all over the floor.”
And so begins T.A. Webb’s novel and our journey through the life of a man who loves and loses and finds the way to love again. As Mark moves through the death of his mother, the eventual loss of his partner, the guilt and shattering devastation of losing one of the many thrown away youths that his non-profit halfway house cares for to prostitution and drug use, there is only one constant, his best friend, Antonio.
As Mark’s life morphs and changes and one curve ball after another is thrown at him, Antonio is there, to offer a massage, a listening ear, and a deep abiding love that blossoms and grows far beyond what either man ever thought possible–particularly since Antonio was most decidedly straight, but also to Mark’s surprise…deeply in love…with him.
The novel spans more than a decade of Mark’s life and each step, each cherished memory, each deeply emotional loss is offset by a hope for tomorrow–a dream for the future and lots of hard work and tears and laughter.
I simply loved this novel. Mr. Webb writes with a depth of emotion and a gut wrenching honesty that is rarely seen in this genre. Mark’s voice—oh my–his voice, gritty and real, at turns, full of pain and hunger, love and anger, yet always true–always believable–always moving and compelling. I wanted to know this character, reach out and comfort him, wrap him up and keep him from further hurt.
But T.A. Webb didn’t stop there–no, instead he wrote for us a wealth of richly drawn characters that leap from the pages of this poignant story. He went on to give us Antonio, confused, caring, wounded and insecure and so very much in love with Mark. And, Bryan–oh my, so sweet, and beautiful and, in many ways, tortured–and also so very much in love with Mark. Robbie, so lost, used and tossed aside. He was just one of the many “disposable” teens who are tossed onto the streets each day who are taken in by the foundation where Mark works. And the list of characters goes on and on–each fully developed, rich with their own emotions and having their own incredible stories.
Second Chances is a rich tapestry of family and friends that we watch move together, touching each others lives and leaving behind indelible marks on each others’ souls. This novel is a gift, a glimpse into the remarkable life of one man who loves fiercely and completely, loses utterly and wholly and like the phoenix rises from the ashes to love again.
I cannot say enough of how this story spoke–sang to me! And its melody was stunningly beautiful. However, dear reader, as always you must decide for yourself. For me, I think I will turn back to this novel again and again, and let its hauntingly sweet song carry me away once more.