Jim has never had the approval he seeks from his family when it comes to his relationships with men. Being bisexual has caused a rift between him and his family, particularly since his sister married a clergyman who feels Jim’s attraction to men is an abomination. Being judged by those he loves has left Jim angry and that has led to mistakes he wishes he could take back. Now jobless and homeless, Jim is forced to beg help from his sibling and has been informed he is to be on his best behavior, which includes not bringing any men into her home. While that rule has Jim seeing red, it becomes more than tempting to break it when he sets his eyes on the piano teacher who gives lessons several times a week to his sister’s kids. But getting a date from Fran won’t be Jim’s only challenge; it will be the revelation by his nephew, Oscar, that he’s not a ‘he’ at all, but a she and she is terrified to tell her parents.
I don’t think I have yet to encounter a novel by Matthew J. Metzger that I haven’t enjoyed. Best Behaviour is no exception. Dealing with a myriad of obstacles in his life, Jim is a really wonderful guy who has simply had his life derailed by the pain of being rejected by his family. It left him angry and volatile, and Jim makes some decisions that cost him dearly and leave him trapped in low-level jobs when he can even find anyone to take a chance on hiring him. After finding out his current job is being dissolved and discovering his landlord wants all the back rent he owes or he will be out on the street, Jim is forced to ask his sister, Sarah, for help. The best thing that can be said for her other than that she’s wealthy is she’s a cold-hearted bitch, and I’m being kind in that description. Between her and her ultra conservative husband, Anthony, a reverend she met at her mother’s church, Jim was set to be miserable until he could find employment. Then he sees Fran—the piano teacher that visits the house to give Jim’s niece and nephew their lessons—and things are suddenly looking up.
From a frank discussion between Fran and Jim about grappling with gender and being bisexual, to the idea that a ten-year-old can and does know when they are unhappy in the body they were born with, this novel hits on so many important ideas. I loved how Jim cared for Charlotte after she revealed how miserable she was as Oscar. The careful way in which this author chose to tackle a conservative family confronted with not only a sexually active brother who refused to hide his attraction to men, to the idea that their own child was grappling with body dysphoria and coming out as who she really was made for a moving novel that kept me glued till the end. I read this in one sitting—I couldn’t put it down. I loved Jim and Fran and their easy relationship. I cried for Charlotte and was so grateful that Metzger opted to give her an uncle who accepted her unconditionally and stood up for her when needed. Ultimately though, it’s the way this author creates realistic figures confronted with real life problems and the flawed and messy way in which they handle them that makes his novels so incredible to read.
Best Behaviour is an emotional novel that celebrates all aspects of the rainbow. Interwoven between heartbreaking revelations of self discovery are loving, fun-filled moments of acceptance and support. I highly recommend this story to you.