Long tells the story of a disorganized woman reacting to her friend’s AIDS diagnosis in this debut novella.
The biggest problem in Annie Winters’ life is that she’s never on time for anything. Such is the case when she’s preparing for a night out with her girlfriends and her friend Bo stops by, having just returned to New York City from a visit with his family in Georgia. She and Bo have been friends since childhood, and an easy intimacy exists between them, largely centered on jokes, gossip, and food. It’s apparent to her that Bo is acting strangely, and he refuses to join her and their friends for their night on the town. The pair part on good terms, but Annie knows something’s up. What she doesn’t know is how big that something is: “Never in my wildest dreams,” she narrates, “did I envision my life being turned around so drastically in a twenty-four-hour period.” The next day, Bo arrives with breakfast and big news: he has AIDS. He contracted the disease during a temporary relapse into heroin use, an old habit connected to his service in the Vietnam War. The diagnosis led to Bo’s losing his job and his family disowning him. Annie promises to help see him through to the end of his illness, but the pressure of the circumstances—and the ways in which they each react to them—threatens to cause them to squander the time that they have left. Long’s prose is maximalist and conversational, giving readers the sensation that they’re hearing it over the phone as one long monologue. She writes Annie as gregarious and voluble, a woman who reacts to things deeply and loudly. Bo comes off as even-tempered and self-deprecating, and the friendship between the two feels genuine, even when their actions and reactions are occasionally theatrical. The story ends up about where readers will expect it, and Long isn’t afraid of sentimentality, which saps the ending of some of its profundity. Even so, she offers a caregiving story that’s full of humor and petty concerns, creating relatable characters that, after the end comes, readers will miss.
A warmhearted tale of crisis and friendship.