Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Lethe Press
In the dead of winter, after a ten-year absence, Wayne Courtois journeys back to his family home in Maine to attend to his dying mother. He is soon assaulted by three facts: the bitter cold winters in Maine are much more brutal than he remembered, his mother’s cancer is much further along than he anticipated, and his emotionally distant brother will be of no help in caring for their mother or attending to funeral arrangements.
Too weak to move, eat or speak, Wayne’s mother can only moan. The morphine drip is her sole comfort. Wayne can only hold her hand while reliving childhood memories of a dysfunctional family life that seems woven into the harsh realities of the bitter cold weather. Sinking into emotional turmoil, Wayne calls on Ralph, his longtime partner, to help him through this distressing ordeal.
Wayne Courtois has created one of the most touching, brave, and beautiful books I’ve read in a very long time. It is unpretentiously funny, grippingly sad, and wisely perceptive. I was so often reminded of the emotions that I felt while dealing with my father’s cancer and eventual death that I went through emotional turmoil myself. But what I walked away with was a beautiful portrait of the caring relationship between Wayne and his lover, Ralph. That, in my estimation, is what this story is about, a relationship that is caring and nurturing, that’s long on love and seems to glow in an uncaring world.
The writing is vivid and lyrical. Wayne Courtois is a new and, already, a commanding voice on the literary stage. He explores difficult subjects with grace and dignity. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this read. I would recommend this book to everyone – gay or straight, young or old – because, for me, it is universally about caring relationships, and the beauty and many solaces they provide.