Dustin Webb is on a path of self-destruction. A hard partying lifestyle and too many nameless hookups have left him alone and on the verge of spiraling somewhere yet darker. And then a man stops and gives him a cup of tea on a cold day. That’s it. An ordinary act on an ordinary day, but it’s a life altering moment for Dustin who becomes desperate to find the man. His name is Nicolae and he’s like no one Dustin has ever met. Despite his blindness, Nicolae sees the world around him more keenly than most and he knows that Dustin is in danger of losing himself to a lifetime of pain and self-loathing.
Nicolae refuses to be another of Dustin’s one night stands and instead forces the other man to see himself in a new way: as loved and cherished, despite his pain. But their road won’t be an easy one. Nicolae is Roma and dating an outsider doesn’t set well with the more conservative members of his family. Dustin will have to decide if loving Nicolae is worth fighting for.
Any of you that have read my reviews know that sometimes I stumble across a book that I really dislike, but I’m never sure if the problem is a “me” issue or something about the book itself. Inflori is one of these. At the end of the day, I can only explain why the book rubbed me the wrong way and be as honest as possible, understanding that another reader may not have the same issues. I found Inflori to be rather trite and often at odds with its own message. The writing is fine. The characters are perfectly acceptable, though not very original, and there isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with the surface plot. So Inflori certainly doesn’t fall into the category of unreadable and the romance between Dustin and Nicolae is soulful and angsty, which is normally the stuff I love.
But here’s where things start to go wrong for me. First, we have Nicolae — the blind man who “sees” more clearly than anyone else. That concept feels as tired as it does a little offensive. I’m not blind, so I won’t presume to speak for members of the blind community. But it seemed that blindness aside, Nicolae also has this enhanced perception and the “gift” of vision/second sight (though the book doesn’t really delve much into this). It’s as though we’re being told “hey this character is blind, but he can still do all this other cool stuff.” Why was that important? It felt as if being blind meant he needed to be improved upon or that his blindness was somehow a deficit that required balancing.
Also, there’s a lot of discussion of Roma heritage in Inflori and the idea of stereotyping a community based on rumors and gossip. We see Dustin and Nicolae as the antithesis of that, but then the author presents two characters that are so intensely racist it sort of defeats the point. One despises the Roma and warns Dustin away from Nicolae, but we’re given no other aspects of this person’s character. So they’re just racist for the sake of being racist. The other, Nicolae’s uncle, is violently opposed to outside influences into Roma life and of Nicolae seeing Dustin. But he’s such a caricature, so empty of anything other vehemence, that he becomes the stereotype the author warned us against. He serves no purpose to the story other than to create a flickering moment of unnecessary chaos and to reiterate xenophobic rhetoric. As a reader, I found this whole aspect of the story maddening and really distracting, primarily because it achieved so little.
Inflori isn’t for me. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. I found parts of it to be just fine, but on the whole, I found the message it conveyed to be distasteful at times and pointless at others. But I encourage you to read Inflori for yourself. Maybe you’ll enjoy Dustin and Nicolae’s story more than I did.