Imagine a mashup of J.M. Barrie and Armistead Maupin, and you’ll sense the disorienting weirdness of this third novel from Adrian (The Children’s Hospital, 2006, etc.).
Buena Vista Park in San Francisco is hilly, wooded and just big enough to get lost in. That’s what happens to three strangers making their separate ways to a party they’ll never reach. Henry, Will and Molly are linked by more than having lost their way. These lonelyhearts, all three damaged by unhappy childhoods, have also lost their significant others. And they are mortals, unlike the faeries living under the hill who, presto change-o, we meet next. Their world too is newly shaped by loss. Titania, their Queen (ring any bells?), has lost her Boy, the changeling she doted on, to leukemia. And she may have lost the King, Oberon, who has disappeared after Titania’s disavowal of her love for him. Unwisely, she frees Puck (aka the Beast) from his 1,000-year bondage, panicking the faerie world. The Beast is at large! Flee! That’s the extent of the plot. The mortals live for us through flashbacks. Henry was once a changeling himself, under the hill; so was Molly’s boyfriend Ryan who, plagued by dim memories, hanged himself. The mortals enter the hill; Molly sees Ryan’s portrait in a gallery (Barrie’s Lost Boys). Henry and Ryan were abducted twice, the second time by a mortal predator. Henry, now gay, became a pediatrician; Titania’s Boy was his patient, the Queen beside his bed disguised as a mortal. She can change into anything at any time, and that’s a problem. There is no terra firma. For the reader, the experience is like walking backward through quicksand. In his previous work, Adrian did a better job of balancing loss and death with fantasy and the supernatural. Here there is careful patterning but no unifying sensibility.
How could such a talented writer be led so astray? Blame the bad faerie Self-Indulgence.