Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Joel Leslie
Length: 6 hours
It’s 1960 and Peter Cabot, youngest son of Senator Cabot, has always been told he was lacking. Let’s be clear, Peter just graduated Harvard and is likely accepted to law school, but Peter didn’t gain honors, or captain a football team, or anything spectacular like his forebears, according to his father. If Peter’s father also knew he was homosexual, well, he’d cut Peter out of his life, just like he did his own brother, Tommy, a couple of years ago. Though anxious to stay away from his father’s presidential campaign, Peter isn’t really ready to come out and sever all familial links. That’s a problem for Future Peter, who’s decided spontaneously to assist a fellow classmate, Caleb Murphy, drive to Los Angeles. Peter has always admired the whip-smart Caleb and never wished to land on the wrong side of his acerbic tongue.
Caleb Murphy has known he was “bent” since forever. Growing up in a small town in eastern Tennessee, Caleb has dreamed of having a steady and stable job far from Tennessee, providing for himself and sending some money home to his mom, who did the best she could subsisting on charity and the good will of her second husband when Caleb’s father died. “Dirt poor” is a good appraisal of Caleb’s upbringing, but he flourished at Harvard on scholarship, and he has a shiny reporting job awaiting him at the LA Times–if only he can get across the country. When he learns his cross-country bus fare has been allocated to the treatment of his half-sister’s broken leg, Caleb is despondent, crying at a roadside payphone. He’s humiliated to have Peter Cabot, of all people, address him in that moment of vulnerability. In Caleb’s eyes, Peter is his opposite: wealthy, entitled, arrogant, and awarded accolades by virtue of his name alone, not his hard work. However, Caleb’s not too proud to accept the offer Peter makes to split gas and drive clear across the country in the next 10 days.
Caleb has no other options, and Peter has only the desire to escape his family, so they immediately embark on a journey of mutual discovery, together.
Peter Cabot Gets Lost is the second book of a series, but fully enjoyable as a standalone. The romance is sweet and tender, with an odd-couple in forced proximity rubbing their rough edges smooth through frank conversation and shared experiences. Caleb soon learns that Peter is insightful and kind, but an introvert, hardened by his father’s brutal scorn, scrutiny, and dismissiveness. He’s shocked to learn that Peter is gay, like himself, but he grudgingly acknowledges that Peter is a truly honorable, decent, man. And, damned attractive, to boot. Peter always found Caleb…interesting, and well, the bonds they build sharing all-day drives and hotel rooms at night causes Peter to reveal more and more of his vulnerabilities. And, well, Caleb maybe didn’t want to be Peter’s gay “tutor,” but he’s not averse to giving Peter some experience, as they get closer emotionally. I loved how Caleb is so bossy and authoritative, and Peter is bigger in stature, but so shy and reticent. And so stinking decent. He never wants Caleb to feel any pressure to do anything, or be a burden, and Caleb, who half-expected Peter would try to extort “favors,” is so happy to give them when he knows Peter will let him take the lead.
The audiobook was just a dream and I loved Joel Leslie’s narration. Having made my own cross-country migration (twice), it was fun to see it through both Caleb’s and Peter’s eyes as this is a dual POV story. I also dug the in-car bickering over navigation woes; Caleb is hopeless at map reading and reminded me of those dark days, before cell phone GPS apps, when a paper map was the only viable navigation tool for such a trip. There are very few supporting voices, so I was really able to soak in Peter’s plummy-Bostonian voice as a counterpoint to Caleb’s sometimes-twangy narration. They each are very distinct, and I loved the patience Peter shows when Caleb gets snippy; he’s such a caretaker and Caleb does (eventually) adapt to being cared for, because he appreciates that Peter does this out of generosity, rather than pity. Both men are nervous about arriving in LA, for different reasons. Peter doesn’t want Caleb to push him away, and Caleb is afraid Peter will get sucked back to the east coast by his father’s demands. It’s a super happy ending for both men, and I’d love to read about them into the future some years, just to bask in their happiness.
I’ve listened to the book twice through, and will likely indulge again because I enjoy the pacing, the story, and experiencing these are characters I admire. Highly recommend.