I’m not sure how tolerant this site is for expletives—pretty sure I’ve never used them in a review here—but let me say…I’d use several of them to describe the level of emotional upheaval I experienced while devouring this book. I am a fan of Rick R. Reed’s books; I’ve read seven or eight and loved all of them. And I still love Sky Full of Mysteries, even though it broke my heart.
Let me start off with this: the blurb is a bit misleading. Just more than half of the book takes place in Chicago 1997, surrounding the time when 23-year-old Rory Schneidmiller disappears. Rory has just moved into his first apartment with the man of his dreams, Cole Weston. They are stupid in love, out and monogamous, and ready to spend their lives in co-habitation. Three weeks later, Rory disappears.
I was a wreck watching Cole fall apart. His life wasn’t spectacular—commmonplace actually—but it felt so dang real. Being a contemporary of the characters (I was 23 in 1997, also living in Chicago in 1997), I felt transported by the narrative back to this time. Oh, the days of cheap rent in Rogers Park! If nothing else, Reed gets an A+ for research into the Chicago scene, and life then and now. Rory is easy to love and hard to forget, creating a giant well of sympathy for both Rory and Cole, who doesn’t deal well. In fact, it feels like the life was sucked out of him the day Rory disappeared. A once exuberant man, he retreats into a shallow half existence. His incidental connection to Tommy D’Amico, an uninspired law student, helps to carry him past his grief, but Cole never forgets the fire and passion of the love he shared with Rory.
Fast forward twenty years. Cole still grieves Rory—and it’s a trouble for his now-husband, Tommy, to accept. We can see how deeply Tommy loves Cole, has loved him for those twenty years. They have a slow-cooker love. No spice, though a steady, companionable heat. Tommy has supported Cole all those years, and Cole has been a helpmeet to him, but Rory is still cherished as the love of Cole’s life.
And then, Rory returns. He’s physically unchanged by the years, and mystified at how the world and people he knew, what seemed like days ago, are now different. In the case of many, they are now gone. His apartment? A stranger lives there. His father? Dead ten years ago. Rory’s elderly mother can’t believe it’s him as unchanged as he looks, but she accepts a miracle has brought Rory back and she won’t let him go if she can help it. Rory is desperate to find Cole. And fate brings them together again.
But will this be their second chance at love, or will this be yet more heartbreak?
Folks, this one made me cry. Big, fat, slobby tears. They were not of joy, but of understanding. I told you it broke my heart, and I think I’m not going to be alone there. It’s not a romance, in the traditional sense. It’s very bittersweet. I’ve seen tropes like this in the past—I’m a fan of the paranormal and alien stories and all that supernatural hoo-ha—and I pretty much knew the direction this was going. I didn’t cry because I hated the ending. I cried because I felt gutted that the ending couldn’t have worked out happily for everyone. I loved the setting, I loved the characters, and I loved the story. I wanted it to somehow, magically, let Cole and Rory have their beautiful, youthful, and passionate love, without also crushing Tommy.
I’m reminded that we all have people who enter or exit our lives for reasons we cannot control, who change us by being in a certain place at a certain time. That was a major theme of this story that spoke to me. The sheer amount of grief in this story was…cavernous. I felt encompassed by the grief of Cole, Tommy, Rory—even Rory’s mother! Tears still spring to my eyes as I write this review. So, bravo, Mr. Reed, your story turned me into a gibbering mess. I only want to wring your neck…a little.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.