A young, bipolar gay man struggles to find love.
A college student in 1980s suburban Dallas, Johnny Verliebt battles with the loneliness caused by his sexuality and his bipolar disorder. When Robert Fitzgerald, a preppy Ivy Leaguer, moves into Johnny’s apartment complex, the two begin an affair–but Robert is also dating Ann, Johnny’s best friend. Eventually, Robert returns to the East Coast alone. Johnny pursues him, and though the affair continues in Boston, Robert eventually decides his family background and professional reputation will not abide his sexual orientation. Crushed, Johnny returns to Texas, where he moves into a rundown neighborhood populated by artists and homosexuals, and continues to struggle. Though the author addresses Johnny’s struggles with bipolar disorder in a respectful, knowledgeable manner, the illness plays only a minor role in the narrative. A stronger focus might have prevented it from so frequently slipping into the predictable patterns of typical coming-of-age novels. After befriending a painter, Johnny is introduced to a larger gay community. Here, the story accelerates, and Kirchmeier’s descriptions of the gay community at the dawn of the AIDS crisis are enlightening and tender. Meanwhile, Johnny is working on a novel about his life, called The Province of Hope, which readers are to understand is the book they’re reading–this approach, while gimmicky, does add depth to an otherwise austere story. Kirchmeier shows promise, and the prose, at times lyrical, evokes genuine emotion.
A simple, flawed novel that somehow manages to be affecting.