Cravings Creek by Mel Bossa is an intense, character-driven novel that deals with everything from post-rape PTSD to alcoholism. The blurb for this story really doesn’t give you any indication of the wild ride you are about to take when delving into the life stories of two boys turned men and the impact that both religion and a horrific act of violence does to them. Suffice it to say that for some, there may be some triggers in this book that preclude them from entering in, but for those who do, I can say with certainty that the payoff at the end of the novel is worth the journey.
The story begins when Ryde and Alistair are seventeen and the summer they spend together opens up a whole new world for Ryde and I feel unlocks the deep dark secrets Alistair has inside him. Ryde and Alistair have been friends since they were very little, but it has taken many years for Ryde to understand he is gay and that he is desperate to tell his best friend that he thinks he is in love with him. Alistair is locked inside a home that is ultra-religious and experiences “fits” that often begin with migraines where he sometimes has visions of an angel visiting him. His faith is unshakeable, even when he is confronted with his own desires for Ryde; somehow Alistair feels God has ordained their love and that is enough for him.
When the two boys are given the chance to go on a family camping trip together, they jump at it, and are able to begin exploring their feelings for each other. It is on this trip that their lives will change forever and not for the good. The story picks up fourteen years later. Ryde is an alcoholic barely holding on to his translation business; his hopes of being a writer have vanished and he lives for the bottle. Alistair has become a priest. What follows is best summed up as a reawakening and devastating reality check for both men. Whereas Ryde has coped with the past and his loss of Alistair (the family moved while Ryde was still recovering from the camping incident) by burying himself in a bottle, Alistair has become someone who Ryde sometimes doesn’t recognize. With the church doing all of Alistair’s counseling and hiding his real illness, it’s up to Ryde to get his friend—the man he still loves—some help before it’s too late.
Cravings Creek is an incredible novel. While there are a few unrealistic areas, the overall concept and the character study alone make this a fascinating story to read. It is an emotional journey, both for the characters and the reader, in my opinion. One thing I can say for certain is that the way author Mel Bossa depicts the church rallying around Alistair and refusing to get him outside help in the form of intensive counseling is actually quite realistic. Without going into my own family’s details, I can tell you one of my siblings was a nun and had a mental breakdown while in the convent. It took us intervening to get her the help she needed. So I felt this aspect of the novel was actually spot on given my brush with the Catholic church.
However, there were other elements that seemed a bit extraordinary, especially when it came to how Ryde managed to turn his life around initially without any help. Then the whole aspect of how Alistair was somehow able to confront his demons, despite his therapist not being on board with the whole idea, strained the believability of the ending for me. Despite these things, this was a really intense and entertaining novel. I hate to use that word, entertaining, primarily because it feels cheap to describe such a forceful and wrenching story as such. There were pieces of this book that really stuck with me and impacted me emotionally simply because Alistair was such an innocent lamb and the things that happened to him were unspeakably vile. I was so grateful the author chose to have everything happen off page and not even go into great detail or description of the event, but instead give us just enough to allow the reader to understand the horrific events that took place.
Cravings Creek is a re-release under a new publisher for author Mel Bossa and is just as potent and timely a topic as it was when first released. I can easily recommend this novel to you. It is gritty, intense, and redemptive and it is that last descriptive word that is the most important when it comes to the lives of two men who are seeking to love each other while doing the work of healing from trauma.