Sibley (Any Kind of Luck, 2002) blends skillful storytelling with a sharp insight into human nature in this darkly humorous, intricately plotted tale of a prison inmate who, through years of correspondence, falls in love with a woman he has never met—a woman who turns out not only to be a gay man, but a closeted gay minister.
Lester Briggs is serving a five-year prison term for stealing—of all things—a church. Out of prison early for good behavior, Lester leaves behind his cellmate and lover of convenience, “Little Ray,” and heads for the small town of Rockport, Texas, where he hopes to find Laurel Jeanette Yancey, the love of his life. He finds instead the closeted gay minister who has been writing to him; the minister’s lesbian sister; a kindly, old gas station manager who offers him advice and later a job; and a whole host of other colorful characters (most of whom end up having some bearing on the plot, however minor). Plotlines reach levels of mistaken identity, confusion and startling coincidence not often seen outside of farce or soap opera, but this infuses the events of the story with a genuine humor and insight that keeps the material fresh. Sibley deftly handles his characters’ emotions, from the brief connection between a distant father and son, to the emotional roller coaster Lester Briggs finds himself on—in love with the mind of a man and the body of that man’s lesbian sister, all while struggling to adjust to the realities of life outside of prison. It’s to Sibley’s credit that the emotional reality of the characters never suffers for the sometimes outlandish convolutions of the plot. Readers looking for an entertaining book with surprising touches of depth and emotion are sure to enjoy this fresh, dramatic tale.
Funny, touching, heartbreaking and insightful.