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HALFWAY HOME by Paul Monette

HALFWAY HOME

By Paul Monette

Pub Date: April 14th, 1991
ISBN: 0-517-58329-1
Publisher: Crown

 Monette's third AIDS-related effort (Borrowed Time, Afterlife): a rather contrived melodrama about two brothers, one living with AIDS and the other being chased by the mob--but, still, Monette has room for his strengths: an exploration of the lessons learned when living with such illness and an appreciation of what matters most. Tom Shaheen once had a career as Miss Jesus, the jazz messiah, and played to good reviews--as well as to county censorship. Now, stricken, he lives in a California beach-house courtesy of Gray, a sort of wealthy angel (``Guilt has gotten more dinners on the table than hunger ever dreams of''). When brother Brian shows up unexpectedly, Tom, the narrator, begins to dredge up his past: paternal abuse and (we find out later) some sexual stuff with Brian. But soon enough the story gets its exposition out of the way and revs up to the plot (not for nothing has Monette written the novelizations of such movies as Predator and Scarface): Brian's Connecticut house gets blown away by the mob, and Brian shows up again, this time with wife Susan--homophobic--and son Daniel. The resulting psychodrama is touching, mostly: Daniel gets to know and love his uncle; Brian and Tom finally become reconciled (even as Brian prepares to enter the witness-protection program); and Gray and Tom fall in love. In the finale, Brian, whom Tom always thought ``couldn't make a wrong move if he tried,'' needs help--the man who set him up has him at gunpoint--and Tom uses his affliction as a weapon, displaying his lesions, then biting the attacker to terrify him before grabbing his son. The ending is a happy one. That is, there's a good deal of sweetness and buoyancy to balance the rhythm of relapse and anxiety. Monette comes full circle--his protagonist not only working through grief but also finding a fuller life for himself and learning to love again.