Rating: 4 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Arthur Edwards’ 80th birthday is approaching and, with the help of Madeleine, his wife of 50 years, he’s decided to tell their two children his most difficult secret: he is a gay man. His son is startled, but supportive. His daughter, Elizabeth, who’s a widow raising three kids and planning her own second wedding, is aghast, appalled, and ashamed. She cuts off contact with her clearly delusional and lying, conniving father and insists her children do the same.

Elizabeth’s three children are stunned, especially Teddy, because he has a very close relationship with both Arthur and Madeleine. He may be 21, but he considers his grandparents as surrogate parents since the sudden loss of his father three years ago. Teddy’s grief was intense, leaving him with anxiety and abandonment issues, while Elizabeth was blindsided and began running her life on automatic pilot. Teddy’s further traumatized by his mother’s shunning of Arthur, making him wonder how would she treat Teddy if she found out he is also gay.

Mired in depression, Teddy opted out of university, and he’s put off both finding a job and coming out. Insisting Teddy get on with his life, Elizabeth arranges an internship for him at the newspaper where she’s a syndicated columnist. While Teddy appreciates this leg-up, he’s mortified that people will resent him for the nepotism. Ben, the other intern, does resent him, at first. Ben has Feelings about Elizabeth’s influence on Teddy’s spot at the paper, mostly because his own parents cut him off for being both gay and following a career in journalism against their wishes.

Ben and Teddy have a tumultuous pseudo-friendship/rivalry set up by the competitive nature of the internship, which features a job interview at its completion. Teddy admires Ben’s take-charge attitude, while Ben envies Teddy’s inventiveness and storytelling. A reluctant rapport grows between them sparking mutual attraction, even as Teddy’s friends warn Teddy that Ben could be using him to get ahead in the internship. Ben’s pushing Teddy to come out so they can have a relationship. Teddy’s gun-shy considering his mom’s continued bad behavior about Arthur’s announcement.

Meanwhile, Arthur is facing the aftermath of a forced outing–gossip mongers, losing close friends, and diminished status in his small town. On the upside, he’s supported by his wife, son, son’s girlfriend, and Teddy. He’s getting “out there” on apps, and making friendships with other queer people who lift him up. A local tragedy highlights how precarious life can be for queer youth, prompting Arthur to plan an outrageous stunt to raise funds to support queer folk. Teddy’s on board, and the positive publicity that comes from his columns helps him find more strength to finally come out himself.

This book is an intergenerational family drama that features some romantic elements. Arthur doesn’t anticipate finding love at 80; he just wants to live his truth for whatever time he may have left. He had a true love once, and his lover was nearly killed for their dalliance. The relationship between Madeleine and Arthur emerged from a youth that forced them to make the best of bad options. While Elizabeth assumes her father hoodwinked her mother, it’s clearly not the case. I loved how Arthur and Madeleine rescued each other from bleak futures through marriage. They may not have developed a romantic love, but both partners led full lives filled with trust and support. Teddy’s reflections on the horrors that Arthur survived helped him to grab the courage necessary to live his truth.

I think the book was really interesting, with vivid cinematic plot points and poignant conversations. Teddy and Arthur are good men, with real issues, who struggle with the morass of queer representation, or lack of it, in their lives. They felt like full humans, and I was invested in their stories and their happiness. While the book takes place in England, the story itself felt like it could have been set in any suburban area, which I think is a testament to its cultural translatability. There were some grandiose moments that beggared my belief, but in a way that I would have kind of accepted had it been a movie. The end felt rushed, especially in the resolution of Teddy’s job situation and his developing relationship. I had to read the Epilogue twice, because there were twists for Teddy that confused me.

Expect a happy ending here. All amends having been made, all truths revealed, and Teddy and Arthur have brighter futures awaiting them.

Note: Please note there are repeated mentions of a secondary character’s suicide, which could be a trigger for some readers.