As the author of Dear Fairy Grandmother, Jonathan Ordell spends his days writing an advice column in which he is the surrogate gay best friend to millions of women, yet he is incapable of utilizing his own advice when it comes to his own life. Jonny is 38 years old and in love with Mark Dorsett, a man he isn’t even sure is gay. Add in the fact that Mark is mentally ill and self-destructive, and Jonny finds himself at a crossroads. Should he continue to follow his heart and let Mark lead him down the path to destruction, or should he cut his losses and risk losing the man that he loves?
I want to preface this review by saying that this book is NOT a romance book in the traditional sense. There are no loveable characters. You will want to beat both of these characters over the head, repeatedly, and then do it again…and again…and again. This is not a gay romance where you will get your happily ever after and envision the characters settling down to married bliss afterwards. At the end of this book, the most you will get is just a glimmer of hope. This is not even what I would consider gay fiction, because we are never really sure if one of the characters is actually gay or not.
This book is either a genius idea or a disturbing concept. There will be readers who think this book is amazing, just as there will be readers who will probably toss this book into their DNF pile before reaching the halfway point. This is because this book doesn’t take us away to a pleasurable place that we often want to go to when we escape in our reading. Instead, this book takes us to the place that many of us tend to shy away from even in our real lives.
Mental illness pervades our society, yet no one talks about it. We pretend it isn’t there. Yet, in this book we can’t pretend because it keeps staring us in the face and makes us cringe at the thought that this is happening all around us on a day in and day out basis, but we choose not to look at it. Add in emotions and romantic elements and you have the makings of a Hollywood horror flick based on real life. I should note that the author doesn’t ever really tell us what mental illness Mark suffers from, which makes it even more “scary” because it throws in another element of the unknown.
The chapters of the book start off with letters to Dear Fairy Grandmother, the advice column Jonny writes. In each of these letters, we begin to see a pattern of how his readers’ letters relate to his own life. While initially these were “cute,, as the book goes on, we realize how sad it all is. We can see the struggle in Jonny as he is capable of detaching himself away from readers with these problems, yet when it is him with the same problem, he can’t step away because he is emotionally involved. The conflict going on within Jonny is there for all to see…its raw, its ugly, and its real.
How does one even begin rating/reviewing such a story? Even after reading it, I am at a loss as to how exactly I felt about the book. There was nothing “pleasurable” about reading this book…yet, I was dragged into the rabbit hole with Jonny and Mark and before I knew it, I couldn’t put the book down because I just needed to know how it ended…only to get to the ending and realize that I still don’t really know how it ended. Yet, on the other hand, I find myself days later still reflecting on what exactly it was that I read. For those reasons, I tend to think the author was a genius.