When I started listening to this story, I didn’t know where I was headed. Then it became clear. I was made to wait, just like they were made to wait, for the end, and the beginning…
Title: What Binds Us
Author: Larry Benjamin
Narrator: Richard Magnus
Publisher: Carina Press
Story Rating: 5.0 of 5 Stars
Narration Rating: 4.75 of 5 Stars
Overall Rating: 5.0 of 5 Stars
Thomas-Edward is only a teenager when he escapes his working-class neighborhood. He’s ready for anything–except the arrival of Donovan Whyte in his life. Sophisticated and dazzlingly handsome, Dondi quickly becomes the center of Thomas-Edward’s universe, introducing him to a world full of drama, passion and feuding families.
When their relationship fizzles, they remain uneasy friends until Dondi invites Thomas-Edward to his family’s summer house. Thomas-Edward is immediately attracted to Dondi’s mysterious brother, Matthew–and finds himself hopelessly drawn to both men.
As time passes, Thomas-Edward develops a unique bond with both brothers as they orbit around each other, although he knows only one of them can be his lifelong love. Will the three of them be able to find a way to hold on to each other? Or will love, its loss and the threat of death destroy their connection once and for all?
My View – Story:
Make no mistake about it, this is plainly a love letter to this book, these characters, and to love itself. This is my life. My friends’ lives, those of my family. It’s the story of all of us. This is a personal review. I thank you ahead of time for indulging this love in my attempt to do right by this book.
~ ~ ~ The Earth, the Moon and the Sun ~ ~ ~
No one has an easy time of it in this group of characters, widely ranging in many ways in terms of identity. Each time I thought the author would maybe take the easy, typical way out in explanation of an action or word, he quietly and not so gently told me otherwise. Rough roads are traveled by all, with stretches of sunshine here and there. Life can be good, very good, between the heartaches and devastation.
“What,” I asked him, “do you see when you look at me?”
“I see everything I ever hoped for.”
Suddenly self-conscious, I pulled the covers up over me and turned to him, this amazing man in whose heart and bed I’d landed.
There are themes that wind and continue all throughout this book. Not just the search for love but the ability to allow it inside once found. The struggle to find one’s own way, to not fall into the trapped footsteps of parents, of history. Friendship as the foundation for just about everything, chosen connections. Being true to yourself and the consequences we may suffer for not doing so. We know it’s not always easy, that it feels almost insurmountable a task, but we have to try. That’s when friendship and love step in, if we let them.
Thomas is whose perspective from which this story is shared with us. He’s intelligent, humble, demanding, honest, a family guy, and won’t settle when it comes to just about everything in his life. The thing that struck me the most was how quietly he does all of this. He manages to take care of everyone in some way or another, whether for a moment or forever.
Matthew wants everything he thinks Dondi has refused to make a part of his life: love, family, Thomas. He’s determined, connected to the people he loves, understanding them, not underestimating them. He wants everything for Matthew and wants to work for the rest of his life to not just give it to him but share it with him. He has more than enough love for everyone who decides to accept and respect it. His brothers Dondi and Colin are worthy. I so enjoy reading about relationships between brothers, being both complicated and yet so simple.
Dondi is brash, intelligent, intent on living on the edge even if it’s not truly where he wants to be. It’s all that society will allow him to have, especially if he wants to protect those he does love from him, from his self-imposed perception of dangerous emotion, an inability to surrender his love to someone else in all ways. He’s the flame to which all moths find themselves drawn, even if that light is false and short-lived. It takes someone with the ability to recognize the truth hidden within that light, someone who sees him and wants to stay. Thomas and Matthew are the earth and the moon to Dondi’s sun. He’s insightful, frustrating and careening through life. Mostly.
No one belongs to themselves alone. We also belong to those who love us.
The language is lush and deep and I felt like I could dive in and snuggle up and sink down into every word. The style is different but Benjamin’s clear love of language and using language reminds me of Harper Fox or Edmond Manning. Enthralled is the word I would use, so I will.
The dialogue is natural and consistent within each character. No one said anything that gave me pause, trying to decide if they would really express themselves that way. It does wander into dreamland sometimes, the perfection and highly romantic, but again, it fit the characters and the tone of the overall story.
The supporting cast: Patricia Pat, Mrs. Whyte, Geo, Portia, the three furies, Thomas’ parents, everyone is like all of us. Weird and funny, actions informed by fears and hopes, words said in anger, tenderness and support.
I was staring up at the sky. The first star had just appeared when Mr. Whyte stepped out onto the terrace. He handed me a snifter. I knew it contained rum.
“What did you wish for?”
“I wished I was handsome. I wished I was special,” I answered, bringing the goblet to my lips and taking a long swallow, not ashamed to have admitted so much.
“You are special.”
“No, I’m not. I’m ordinary as dirt.”
He reached into the planter beside him and extracted a handful of dark soil. “This is ordinary dirt. Yet it’s of the earth itself. From this dirt springs all life. And to it all life must eventually return. You are the earth. You are the beginning and the end.”
“I am the earth,” I repeated.
There are serious subjects that are parts of the lives of these characters. This author’s writing style lays out the detail in a way that feels like that warm blanket of memories. That blanket will have holes bored through by sadness, missed opportunities, death and pain. Yet, those threads maintain their connections, giving the strength that allows all of those memories to come, to remind us, to comfort us.
… he seemed as fragile as a dream and just as impossible to hold.
Even through the horror, there is love. Even when our eyes fall upon death, there is understanding. In life, there is but love and death. We all struggle to get one before the other comes to take our hand.
In all honesty, no blurb, review, discussion notes or coffee convo could accurately convey the emotions I experienced while listening to this story. Nothing I say will fully tell you how it makes me feel. Still. Makes, not made. This is one that will stay with me, in my memory, with all of those of my own, for a very long time.
If you trust my word even a little, you’ll read or experience audibly this beautiful, devastating, affirming, desperate and loving book. Words, memories and tears. I haven’t been changed, as this was already a part of me. Mr. Benjamin has expressed it for me, for many.
My View – Narration:
Paired with Benjamin’s words is the voice of Richard Magnus. He was meant to present this story, to bring us inflections and accents and whispers and screams. He brings Dondi’s complexity right to the edge, never spilling over into ridiculous or overindulgent interpretation. Matthew is probably the most straight forward character in that he speaks his mind and reads people well. His voice is clear and unwavering. Thomas, every time he speaks from the here and now, it sounds so innocuous but with a hint of sadness and a touch of contentment. It’s a powerful and talented thing to be able to convey these layers with just words, written and verbalized.
Each character gets their own interpretation, their own level of rasp or layer of squeak. Emotion and volume and attitude were all brought forth.
There were a couple of times during either a long monologue or exposition that the tone didn’t change, sounding a little hypnotic. It broke through as a distraction for only a moment, the story overriding any momentary lapse.
I would find no hesitation and only excitement in listening to any of his narrations.
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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