Growing up is tough on Poe’s (Simon Says, 2012) titular protagonist in this thoughtful, gritty tale.
Simon Powell grew up gay, smart and constantly searching for fulfillment in the rural South in the 1960s and ’70s. As the novel opens, Simon is writing down his personal story while staying at a rehab facility and trying to work through his problems—which are, as he would say, “legion.” The word “journey” is often overused, but it absolutely applies to Simon’s experiences, starting with his first sexual encounters with his best friend. Later, after high school, he fights to establish his own identity in a world full of new ideas, drugs and quasi-religions; soon, he comes under the influence of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church members before an inevitable disillusionment. Simon’s search for himself leads him into esoteric areas of philosophy, music, art and drugs; along the way, his musings are peppered with big names, from musician Jimi Hendrix to artist Willem de Kooning to psychic Edgar Cayce. Later, in rehab, he engagingly fights both his addiction and his emotional detachment as his lover and mother look on. At times, the book dwells a bit too long on philosophical discussion, to the point where the characters seem like mere place holders to make conversational points. But even during these occasional narrative speed bumps, Simon remains an extremely compelling character, and readers will find themselves invested in Simon’s fate. He may be self-destructive, but he’s always trying to adhere to a moral compass—although one that’s been badly damaged by his life experiences. It’s an engaging story throughout, and it’s rarely obvious where Simon will wind up.
A sweeping, unpredictable fictional autobiography.