Book: M4M 2nd Edition
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Publication Date: July 10, 2017
Length: 200 pages
Reviewed by Michael
Finding and keeping love can be a challenge in the modern world of blogging, social media, and online dating, as one man will learn in this trilogy.
VGL Male Seeks Same
Poor Ethan Schwartz. At forty-two, he’s alone, his bed is empty, and his HDTV is overworked. He’s tried bars and other places where gay men are supposed to find each other, but it never works out. Maybe he should get a cat?
But his life is about to change…
Poor Ethan. He’s received the most shocking news a gay man can get—he’s HIV positive. Until today his life was perfect, with a job he loves and Brian, who could be “the one.” The one to complete him and fill his lonely life with laughter, hot sex, and romance.
But Ethan’s in for another shock. Could Brian have infected him?
Alone again, Ethan wonders if life is worth living, even with a cat. When an old nemesis sends a Facebook friend request, Ethan is suspicious but intrigued. It seems this old acquaintance has turned his life around, and the changes might hold the key to Ethan getting a new lease on life… and love.
While reading this book, I was reminded of a play-turned-movie from the Eighties called “Torch Song Trilogy." In both that and this book, you have three stories told at what could be argued to be turning points of the main characters life. Both also revealed a little something about the characters and us as people. But, believe me, these are completely different stories.
Now, I’m going to let you in on a secret
This is, perhaps, the worst kept secret in all of human existence. Every man, woman, and child know it, but rarely, if ever, talks about it. As if discussing it will open Pandora’s Box and hasten its inevitable arrival.
That secret is this: We all get older.
Now, how each of us deals with this varies from person to person, culture to culture, community to community. Some cultures, like the Japanese, revere the generations that came before, while others would rather pretend they don’t exist.
Something happens within the gay community after your thirties that you never saw coming while you were in your twenties. Your priorities change. Life is no longer about saving money for bar nights or going out until the wee hours of the morning, getting up with three hours of sleep, and going into work. Nor is it about finding “The One”, or even “The One For The Night.” Life is about making the mortgage or rent payment, putting food on the table, and figuring out what to watch on television. Because of this shift, the friends you had in your twenties and thirties, the ones you thought you would have throughout your life, may disappear. Eventually, unless you’re partnered up, you can end up feeling alone. There’s a sense of irrelevance, and you look back at your life and wonder how you got here, what you could have done differently. It’s not something that happens on purpose, or even with your knowledge until you finally notice. Now, As a newly single gay man in his forties, Ethan, the main protagonist, is feeling his irrelevance. He’s been alone for so long that that sense of loneliness has become a second skin that he would live to shed. But how do you meet someone when you don’t go to the bars anymore? He does what a lot of gay men in the Twenty-First Century do: Create a profile on an online dating sight. Navigating the world of on-line dating can be daunting, but for Ethan, who has been out of the dating scene for quite some time, the whole thing is terrifying and ultimately a blow to what little ego he has. He makes some choices that, while you may not agree with them, you can’t help but feel are completely human.
Ultimately, he meets Brian, and they begin an online romance. Now, some may argue the virtues of communicating purely by text or email, and whether you can truly believe what you read. When you are as lonely as Ethan is, you will choose to believe anything and everything if it will ease that loneliness. As it turns out, Brian isn’t exactly who Ethan thinks he is, but these are more like minor annoyances than anything that will derail their budding relationship.
The second third of the book deals with the spectre of the Eighties, something that isn’t thought of much these days by the younger generations.
I’m not giving anything away by disclosing that Ethan finds out he is HIV+, it’s right in the blurb. How he handles the news is raw and unfiltered, and completely human. He questions how he was infected, and comes to the only logical conclusion. Now, again, you may not necessarily agree with his thought process, and I even shook my head a couple of times in disbelief. But his reaction is all too human. Helpless and hopeless. I was taken back to the rise of HIV/AIDS, and how devastating that was to the gay community, and to the relationships within the community. That sense of hopelessness is translated here, over thirty years later, quite effectively.
The big question is, did Brian infect Ethan, and how will he handle the news?
I don’t want to give anything away. I will say that I loved this part of the book.
The last third of the book deals with Brian being “gone”, and how Ethan deals with life after Brian. Again, no spoilers, it’s in the blurb.
Ethan’s grief if an all-consuming thing. How do you handle the sudden loss of the one real relationship you’ve ever had? How do you move on from the pain of that loss? How do you begin to even think about starting over when you’re almost fifty and the world around you seems geared more toward people half your age? These questions and more run through Ethan’s head.
I’ll be honest, I spent this part of the book in tears. Not because it was poorly written. Quite the opposite.
This entire book was more an examination of how we as older gay men fit into a community that is more about bar-night than dinner at home. It’s about how there seems to be the presumption that Life stops after Thirty, when in fact there’s so much more. This book isn’t just entertainment.
Because it’s a glimpse into what we all may face: that horrible secret that no one wants to talk about.
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