The eventful life of a troubled young gay man comes full circle in this third installment of a series.
The adventures of resilient protagonist Simon Powell continue in this novel, which charts his post-rehab existence after years of melodrama. He escaped a conservative upbringing and involvement with the Unification Church as a teenager, then intensive drug use with shady acquaintances in Southern California. Finally fed up with his string of bad luck coupled with years of poor life choices, Simon finishes a stint in rehab, then retreats to his birthplace of Sibley, Arkansas, and his family’s pre-Civil War timber mansion. Eager to recharge and reboot his life and start anew, he finds himself surrounded by ghosts of the past. Painful memories of his dead father’s judgmental criticism merge with childhood stories, all clouding Simon’s mind as he and his Los Angeles boyfriend, Thad (also fresh from a drug dependency program), begin moving into the mansion. As things progress and Simon settles into his new life with Thad, efforts are made to repair deep-rooted Southern familial ties previously severed by assumptions, misunderstandings, and anti-Christian lifestyle choices. A family reunion attended by Simon and his mother opens old wounds, but an offer to permanently remain at the mansion to resume marketing films and dabbling in his art endeavors takes him by surprise and seems like a solid plan. Eager to focus on his own work, Thad returns to LA to continue collaborating with an adult film producer, but Simon has reservations about his departure. As the lure of sinister influences begins to tempt Thad in California, Simon must deal with his mother’s failing health and, later, the sudden disappearance of his lover after some vengeful Spaniards from their past make their presence known.
Poe (Endings, 2015, etc.) begins the story with flashbacks, sketching in the details of Simon’s checkered history. This narrative touch will familiarize uninitiated readers with the series and provide an appropriate amount of plot refreshing for loyal followers of Simon’s gritty, fraught journey. The author writes with more certainty and ease than he’s exhibited in previous volumes, though his impeccable sense of place remains solid throughout. The tale’s narrative moves from past to present seamlessly, laying out Simon’s situation candidly and without hesitation or overt exposition, which paves the way for plenty of melodrama and family tension. Though he’s come home to heal, there’s no denying that Simon’s problems have followed him to his hometown and still darken his days. This inability to resolve his issues may become wearisome to readers hoping that Simon will find some happiness after so many bleak periods of addiction. Alternately, for readers familiar with the series, Simon’s continual struggle with forgiveness, recovery, intimate relationships, and the momentum of his life is what gives Poe’s books their moxie.
An engrossing saga of a gay man dealing with the sins of a lurid past while moving assuredly into the future.