I know I choose this author a lot, but she can always be relied upon to give us a complex story centered on endearing but troubled characters, and to serve it up in gorgeously clear and vivid prose. This book gives us all that and more with its unusual and compelling theme of gay men in search of a life that will nurture their spiritual, as well as physical, needs.
In most gay fiction, either religion is conspicuously absent or seen as an oppressing force that allows no compromise with one’s gay sexual orientation. This novel gives us a young Amish man whose extensive experience with gay sex drives him to keep secrets from the close-knit community whose ties he fears to lose. His love interest is a sexually inexperienced man a few years older who has recently decided not to take final vows as a Catholic monk.
One of my favorite things about this book is that these two men, who could have been overshadowed by their religious and cultural “types,” come across with such vivid, realistic personalities, especially the Amish boy. Told in alternating third-person, their love story is intense and emotionally moving.
The story begins with Greg (the “almost” Catholic monk) in a bar in Wisconsin where he encounters the hopelessly drunk Faron, who is on his rumspringa. This is an Amish tradition in which their young people explore the secular world for a short time before deciding whether to commit their adult lives to the Amish community. The two tentatively strike up a friendship, which leads to Faron becoming his housemate. Even when each man realizes the other is gay, both of them seem too different to come together as a couple.
Faron is impulsive, emotional, and sexually experienced. Greg is reserved, thoughtful, and cautious. To add to their problems, Faron is trying to ditch a selfish ex-boyfriend. But their deeper issues center on forging a connection with each other, and managing to find a sense of spiritual support that isn’t incompatible with their identities as gay men. This is an emotionally satisfying read about two very appealing lovers.