Author Name & Publisher: Charley Descoteaux (Dreamspinner Press)
Publication Date & Length: December 9, 2015 – 57 pgs
Justice “JB” Bishop tells himself he’s satisfied with life in the small town of Upright, Oregon. He was born and raised there, and has settled into a comfortable, if lonely, routine working at his uncle’s bar. JB doesn’t expect anything to change after he turns fifty, until an old friend drops in. She suggests he get out of town for the holidays, and soon JB finds himself on an Amtrak to Canada. JB expected to feel different in Canada, to see things he couldn’t see at home. He never expected to find the one who got away.
I loved the blurb and the premise for this book, but I found the actual story disappointingly underdeveloped. The idea of an older man given a little push from a friend to find and reconnect with the love of his life is wonderfully romantic. JB, a small town bartender, had the potential to be a great leading man. Unfortunately, he remains a vague sketch and never managed to become real for me.
JB’s trip to Canada is described with a sense of awe usually reserved for trips to the Antarctic or Amazon jungle cruises. In this story, Vancouver is an exotic destination full of polite people and pretty boys. As a Vancouver native, I really couldn’t understand the fifty-year old Washington man’s excitement. The last time I was in Seattle, gay men openly held hands and people smoked pot openly. People are friendly in Seattle too. The weather is just as wet and we share the same ocean and mountains. JB’s reaction to Canada really didn’t work for me.
JB’s almost chance meeting with Doug didn’t resonate at all. A shower and a shave are enough to sort out the homeless man’s life. Doug is another rough sketched character that I wanted to learn so much more about. We are fed bits of his life, but I never felt I knew enough about him to care much for him.
The trip back to Washington felt rushed. I struggled to understand the men’s connection and the instant commitment. Surely Doug could have taken the train back to Washington years earlier if it was such a simple decision for him.
I finished this book wishing the story had been developed into a full novel. I wanted to know the men better and I needed to understand their earlier relationship and the reasons for the extended separation. I liked the idea for the book, but the execution felt clumsy and rushed.
This was a story of a second chance at love. It was refreshing to read about older men. How things have changed over the years for gay men was captured in this story. It was a quick read but was complete enough that it made a very nice read.
JB and Doug seemed so different at first but by the end of the story I thought they made a nice couple. I did wish we new more about what happened that caused Doug to leave the first time.
For being a short story I thought it was done nicely.
Charley has always heard voices. She was relieved to learn they were fictional characters, and started writing when they insisted daydreaming just wasn’t good enough. In exchange, they’ve agreed to let her sleep once in a while. Charley grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during a drought, and found her true home in the soggy Pacific Northwest. She has survived earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods, but couldn’t make it through one day without stories.
Rattle Charley’s cages, she’d love to hear from you!