An elderly woman and her troupe of gay live-ins take in a young man running from a bad romance in Burch’s debut novel.
Aspiring writer Marc Nugent escapes an abusive boyfriend in New York City and winds up in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a small LGBT-friendly resort town on the tip of Cape Cod. On his first morning in P-town, he runs into Dorrie Machado, a foulmouthed octogenarian. She offers him a place to stay in exchange for a car ride home, and he agrees—only to realize later that she wasn’t talking about a room in her own home but a chance at getting a “gardening” job for her elderly neighbor Lola. There’s mysterious bad blood between Dorrie and Lola, who comes from a prominent, wealthy local family. But Marc, in his interview, impresses Lola nonetheless, and he moves into her home the same day. It turns out that the gardener position has little to do with actual gardening; instead, Marc is expected to run occasional errands and keep Lola company, just as her other gay tenants do. They include Helena, a drag queen whose personality is as over-the-top as her outfits; and Cole, a brooding artist-turned-handyman who’s given up painting. Everyone is in one another’s business (“Meddling is a winter sport in Provincetown,” Helena tells Marc), and before long, Marc is investigating why Lola won’t talk to Dorrie. Burch’s exquisite descriptions of Provincetown bring the cape to life, and the more he reveals about the delightfully crotchety Dorrie and Lola and the effervescent, tragic Helena, the more captivating they become. If only the same could be said for Marc; despite a strong start, he becomes less sympathetic as the novel progresses. As the other characters grow more complex and colorful, he remains poorly sketched and juvenile by comparison, despite his traumatic past. A late attempt by the author to add supernatural elements comes off as halfhearted and sappy. By the end, readers will be screaming for less of Marc and for more seascape adventures with Dorrie, Lola, and Helena.
An often vivid portrait of Provincetown life and May-December friendships, despite a bland main character.