Kirkus Reviews QR Code
MY HUSBAND AND MY WIVES by Charles Rowan Beye


A Gay Man's Odyssey

by Charles Rowan Beye

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-374-29871-5
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A gay man's reflections on his marriages to two women and one man.

Now in his 80s, Beye (Odysseus: A Life, 2004, etc.) is a retired scholar and professor of ancient Greek. This self-described "odyssey" tracks his life by way of his sexuality, resulting in a meditation on the author's gay identity and his three marriages. Openly homosexual in his teens, Beye describes his early, casual sexual encounters with boys and falling in love for the first time at 17. Subsequently, as an adult who had never slept with a woman, he was introduced to his future wife, Mary, as "the biggest fag in Iowa City.” Three months later, he proposed, and she accepted. Beye doesn't offer much explanation for this marriage; he claims not to know if he loved her but admits to never having known anyone like Mary. Following her unexpected, sudden death a few years later, he remarried, to a different woman, Penny, with whom he reluctantly had four children. Beye describes their 20-year union as "the deepest, most complicated relationship" of his life. The couple drank heavily and suffered from depression, and neither Penny nor the author remained faithful. Following multiple affairs and their divorce, he fell in love with Richard, who was his partner for 15 years before their 2008 marriage. Some of Beye's sadder confessions are difficult to stomach, but his unrelenting honesty and sharp intelligence makes for a companionable, if slightly mystifying, memoir.

Like an autobiographical Revolutionary Road from a gay husband's perspective, although this unorthodox story ends on a happier note.