“And I knew better. I’d been listening to Dan Savage for a really long time. I figured Dan would tell me to cool my jets and he wouldn’t be wrong.”
So I’ve gotten sucked into yet another of Frank Butterfield’s charming, heartfelt rabbit holes. This is the world of here and now, of evangelical power brokers and presidential tweets. Nonetheless, Nick Williams and Carter Jones, and even great uncle Paul Williams, are here. Not just through their chosen heirs, Mario Ossler and Bob Jenkins, but in spirit, through Eddie Smith’s ability to channel the long-gone gay heroes.
I can’t tell you how weirdly comforting that is. Those of us who continue to live Nick and Carter’s lives through the epic series that started Butterfield down this path, can now leap into the future (i.e. the present) and bask in the warmth of their courage and wisdom and magic billionaire powers. This is not Tolstoy, but it is awesome.
So Eddie, a chubby 52-year-old bear from Daytona Beach by way of Texas and many other places (sounding suspiciously like the author, one must note), has managed to capture the heart of Whit Hall, a 35-year-old recently retired pro football star – an athlete who’s been abstinent and deeply religious all his life because of his celebrated evangelical family.
Mario and Bob are trying to keep Eddie and Whit’s fated meeting a secret, but even the vast reach of WilliamsJones can’t protect them in this day of social media. The president tweets about them, because of course he knows Whit’s father, and the proverbial shit hits the fan.
There are also two murders which, if you think about it, is part of the rhythm of the Nick & Carter books. However, just as with those novels, you can’t let that distract you from the real meat of the story that spring from Butterfield’s imagination: the emotional and psychological development of these two strong, independent men, who have found their lives brought together by forces that seem outside this world.
Eddie Smith has issues, issues that are more subtle than the obvious, freak-out issues of Whit (famous religious straight athlete suddenly comes out and runs off with a hefty middle-aged guy). Eddie has, like so many gay men in my lifetime, been taught that he is not destined to be happy or to have the love of his life, because he is not gym-slim, because monogamy is not what liberated men get, and because love is not something LGBT people deserve. Oh, Eddie is out and proud (and, amazingly, Whit is as well, suddenly and powerfully, showing what a mensch he is). But the messages of our culture are deep and strong. Our inner doubts and fears rule us with a tighter grip than we know, even when we know it.
Nick Williams, Mario and Bob, and even, amazingly, Carter Jones, are all trying to inspire Eddie to live his dream, and not give in to his fears. It is that process that makes this book both winsome and, ultimately, profoundly touching. Along the way we are surprised in many ways and begin to see that the world, despite everything, is better than it was in Nick and Carter’s days.
There are only so many rabbit holes that Frank Butterfield can coax me down, but I’m glad I dropped into this one.
- Paperback: 376 pages
- Publisher: Independently Published (5 June 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1094895709
- ISBN-13: 978-1094895703
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.4 x 20.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 485 g
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