Nathan asks one promise of Fitz: that he be there at his graduation from med school. But on the day of the event, Fitz is nowhere in sight. Now, seven years later, with Nathan still nursing a broken heart, Nathan’s nurse elopes leaving him short and in need of a replacement. When the agency sends over a qualified candidate, it is none other than Nathan’s wayward former boyfriend, Fitz. But where has he been all this time?
I should begin by saying that I do like the ideas set forth in It Takes Practice by Willa Okati on many levels. For instance, there is no doubt that this story is based on the premise that sometimes lovers hurt each other and the reason is because one person in the relationship is actually looking out for the other–wanting the other to succeed and to be happy. I have no problem with this premise. For children, it’s sometimes called “tough love,” for adults it is called “selfless loving.” I also enjoy Nathan’s character as the doctor of a small practice. His interactions with some of the patients are very sweet and go a long way toward revealing who Nathan is as a person.
However, the author doesn’t adequately address the reason for Fitz’s disappearance, which was a crushing blow for Nathan. Unfortunately, for the most part, Fitz’s reason for the departure is left unanswered. So, in turn, the almost snap decision Nathan makes to take Fitz back into his life after a seven-year long absence seems, to me, to be driven by his libido (read lust) rather than being well thought out or questioning things at all. Immediately, bells went off for me–this is just too quick, too easy and, consequently, unbelievable.
So basically we are left with a plot that simply presents a day in the life of two men, complete with a few tenderly written scenes about secondary characters who are patients of Nathan’s, and some very intense make-up sex. But, where was the backstory? Why did Fitz really leave? Yes, yes, I get that he was a borderline alcoholic and drug addict at the time he left. I understand Fitz thinking that Nathan, when beginning his career as a doctor, might not want such a person as his boyfriend and thus leaving him is actually out of love for the guy. But, where is Nathan and what he wants in all this? And seven years? It took Fitz seven years to clean up his act and be “worthy” of a guy who had a limited country practice comprised of elderly and the young? This was not some hotshot doctor to the wealthy who might lose patients over a boyfriend’s indiscretions with the bottle—that idea might have made the long disappearance more understandable.
I just didn’t get it. This story has immense potential; it is lyrical, sweet, and hot in all the right places, but the all too rapid ending and acceptance, and, yes, rekindled love, left me confused. It Takes Practice felt like a piece of a story rather than a complete short story. It just misses the mark for me, and even good writing cannot make up for an oversimplified plot. This author is a good storyteller and I enjoy her work but this one just isn’t as well done as so many of her others.