SONGS FOR THE NEW DEPRESSION

A gay man wrestles with a traumatic past and an uncertain future as a long-term HIV survivor.

Author, theatrical director and AIDS-education advocate Edwards-Stout’s engaging debut introduces sassy, outspoken Gabe Travers, a sarcastically witted, near-40, Southern California guy whose homosexuality “has never been an issue” and whose particular fondness for Paris, France, and Bette Midler has carried him through some of life’s more challenging episodes (the book’s title is from Midler’s 1976 song collection). Told from Travers’ first-person perspective, the story moves in reverse, chronicling his death in the first pages before moving to his adult life struggling with HIV and on to his adventuresome youth. The novel opens with posthumous musings on how certain people buoyed Travers’ often-confusing life, such as his feisty, passionate lover, Jon, whom he met on the job wrangling volunteers at an AIDS support agency. The narrative backtracks to 1995 where a defeatist outlook in his mid-30s caused an obsession with the HIV virus, free-floating in his system since infection in 1987. However, visits with Mom for cocktails, safe sex with Jon and trips to Europe assuage panic about his plummeting T-cells. The author then moves through the 1980s as Travers navigates life in West Hollywood with lifelong friend Clare and endless melodrama with true love Keith, the man who would infect him with HIV. The mid-’70s bring high-school histrionics as he fumbles with puppy love, bonds with then-new friend Clare and suffers cruel classmate humiliation. Though the timeline shifts are presented haphazardly, Edwards-Stout excels at characterization, cleverly arming his plucky protagonist with a contagious combination of wit and droll self-deprecation. Travers skillfully navigates each stage of his life, from a young, spirited gay man to a paranoid adult whose mortality hinges on the dormancy of a fatal virus, all the while keeping his pride and wry sense of humor remain beautifully intact. Drawn from his experiences as an AIDS caregiver and the surviving partner of an AIDS victim, Edwards-Stout infuses reality and hopefulness into a bittersweet story about compassion and personal growth. A distinctively entertaining gay novel written with moxie and bolstered by pitch-perfect perspectives.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-9839837-1-2

Page Count: -

Publisher: Circumspect

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2011

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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