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WHAT BINDS US by Larry Benjamin


by Larry Benjamin

Pub Date: March 19th, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

Benjamin’s novel explores a gay couple’s maturing relationship.

In his freshman year of college, Thomas-Edward rooms with obscenely rich socialite Donovan “Dondi” Whyte, and the two become fast friends and lovers. When Dondi invites Thomas to spend the summer at his family’s sprawling Long Island estate, Thomas falls in love with Dondi’s younger brother, Matthew. Thomas bounces between the brothers, eventually entering into a relationship with Matthew after Dondi and Matthew dramatically come out to their mother, who has secrets of her own. The pair’s love stays strong through the ups and downs of the ’70s and ’80s, the devastation of the AIDS crisis and the difficulties of being a mixed-race couple from vastly different economic backgrounds. The story combines themes of family, connection, race, class and sexuality in an unabashedly romantic style that will likely satisfy fans of the genre. However, while the story takes place in the ’70s and ’80s, the narrative voice is more similar to books from early-20th century, in particular The Great Gatsby, to which it periodically refers. This creates a slight cognitive dissonance between language and subject matter that can be confusing. The sprawling plot is somewhat uneven, and there’s a lack of character development that can occasionally feel disappointing. But as a love story, the book is a delight, sure to engage and satisfy readers. Thomas is an endearing, eloquent narrator, and his story skips along with hope and passion. While it touches on weighty themes, the narrative never becomes too heady nor does it turn into erotica. As a romance novel, it captures the heart and imagination with richly described settings and plenty of drama.

Earnest, heartfelt and thoughtful.