In the middle of a raging blizzard, Vince sees a man walking toward his house. In just a few short minutes, his life will change and the past will be on his doorstep, along with all the unrequited feelings he still has for the man who suddenly reappears in his life—his college roommate, Griff. Griff, having just broken up with his girlfriend Beth, digs up where Vince lives and decides to visit for one week. In seven short days, all kinds of memories and feelings are explored, but some things remain crystal clear: Vince is bisexual; Griff is decidedly straight; Vince still has strong feeling for Griff; and, until their reunion, Vince has remained hopelessly lost in the past.
I chose Ben Monopoli’s novel, The Cranberry Hush, as my choice for Self Published Book Week for the 2020 Reading Challenge Month for a few reasons. First, even though it was released in 2011, it still stands out as an intriguing story about understanding relationships and recognizing that even though you may not get the end result you desire, there is still hope. For instance, Vince, a twenty-something post grad, lives in a sort of childish existence, remembering yet avoiding the idea of being in love with his former college roommate. When Griff shows up on his doorstep, essentially forcing Vince to confront his still active feelings about the guy, there is a realization that Griff will always be straight and never feel about Vince as he would like him too.
Because Vince is bisexual, he feels love for either gender and he clings to this idea that if Griff would just make a move, he would realize they could be something more than friends. It’s as if Vince is stuck in a loop that isn’t always realistic in regard to his feelings for Griff. This is the saddest part of the novel—Vince finally being pushed to grow up emotionally and recognize Griff will never reciprocate his feelings. Vince is forced to see that life is not perfect and first loves don’t always end up in a happy ever after like fairy tale romances. Still, the author provides hope in the form of a coworker of Vince’s waiting in the wings, so to speak, that does and will provide comfort and hope for Vince.
The other reason I was eager to read this book is the consensus that the author is such a capable writer. I have to agree with that. These characters are totally realistic, their story is one that is not only understandable, but I think more commonplace than some might acknowledge. Who hasn’t had a crush on someone unattainable and yet secretly hoped that somehow they would return our feelings? Ben Monopoli writes characters that are timeless, not just stuck in 2011, but still vibrant and real today, nearly a decade later. The have flaws and little idiosyncrasies that make them feel down to earth and attainable.
However, I cannot truthfully review this book without mentioning a few problems I found. First, there are a lot of memory-driven passages that made me feel a bit off-kilter and confused at times. There is the present time, which is the week the guys spend together, coupled with Vince and Griff’s sudden recollection of past events, and then thrown in the mix are Vince’s daydreams—his internal musings about his still active feelings about Griff. Sometime it’s unclear where we are at—is it the present, past, or fantasy? Also, it would have been nice to get more of Zane and the relationship with Vince. I realize this story is really about Griff and their shared past, but the ending seemed a bit abrupt to me, although it certainly left the story compete with no dangling plot points left unfinished.
While these are minor problems, they did impact the story overall for me. Still, The Cranberry Hush is such a well-written, character-driven novel, one that I could recommend to anyone desiring an emotionally charged story that reminds us to grab love when we can—even if it doesn’t always line up with our fantasies.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Self Published Book Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of ten HUGE prize bundles donated by some fabulous self published authors (you can see the full prize list here)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on Self Published Book Week here.