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.