Author: Chase Potter
Publisher: Self Published
Cover Artist: unknown
Rating: 4.0 of 5 Stars
Every action can have devastating consequences. For Jackson Roanoke, the greatest consequence of his parents’ divorce was watching his mother drive away with his twin brother Ben, putting thousands of miles between them.
Eight years later and with college looming, Jackson is tasked with reroofing his father’s house. After a tempting offer of help from a young man, Jackson finds himself caught up in a growing attraction he’s hesitant to embrace. But when his brother Ben reappears at the front door, Jackson is confronted by more than he’s prepared for.
Brought together by circumstance, the estranged brothers are forced to navigate a relationship that persists only in their memories. Marked by the heat of a Midwest summer and rolling wheat fields, the short months are punctuated by scattered moments of closeness between the two brothers, hinting at the possibility of rekindling the connection they once shared.
It’s difficult to review this without spoiling much of the pleasure I had in reading it cold, with no advance information. It is not at all what I expected, but in retrospect, it is what I should have expected. Jackson Roanoke lives with his somewhat strict, slightly grouchy father in a small town in Minnesota. We meet him as he fumbles around while trying to flirt with a new guy working at the local hardware store.
So, at first Chase Potter’s “Remember My Name” appears to be a young adult novel about a high school senior coming to grips with his sexuality. Then we meet Ben, and the book shifts into an entirely different genre. Jackson is still just beginning to deal with being gay, but that suddenly doesn’t seem as important. Ben, you see, is Jackson’s identical twin, and we gradually learn that the boys were separated a decade ago when their parents split up. Since the age of eight, Ben has lived with his corporate executive mother in Los Angeles (from what I could figure, Marina Del Ray, to be exact). This summer, however, mom is off on a three-month business trip and he has to go back to Northfield, Minnesota, and stay with his father and brother. He is not happy about this.
The rest of the book moves back and forth between Jackson and Ben, as the not-entirely-identical brothers try to cover all the emotional distance that’s grown between them in the years they’ve been apart. “Remember My Name” is a love story, for sure, but not the kind of love story you might have been looking for. Potter writes simply and authentically, letting the reader into the heads of these two young men desperately trying to reconnect while not quite believing that it’s possible.
Being gay matters in this book; indeed it is a central part of Jackson’s struggle to move forward with his life. However, for the author, Jackson’s being gay is no different from Ben’s being straight. It is simply part—an essential part—of who he is, part of what each of them brings to their brotherhood. Potter’s treatment of Jackson and Ben’s parents is very interesting, if a little disquieting. They are not obvious in their failings, but both of them have failed their sons. The boys’ father, Jeff, who seems to have been handed the role of bad guy in this book, is not so simple as that. We never really get a handle on who Jeff is, but we get enough to understand, perhaps, why his wife left. On the other hand, there is much to admire in this man, even if his flaws ultimately outweigh his good points.
The boys’ mother, on the other hand (whose name I don’t think I ever caught), is allowed to be more mysterious. The key ingredient to her character as Potter draws it is her motivation for what she’s done. To me, she certainly exhibited imperfections—being willing to leave her son for three months to go on a business trip being a significant one. My distaste for corporate culture aside, I was not, in the end, entirely happy with mom getting a pass while dad was cast as villain. Perhaps Potter did that on purpose. Ambiguity is part of life, and possibly it is how one handles one’s parenting mistakes that matters more than what those mistakes are.
If the parents seem to be handled superficially, it is only because that’s the way we, when we’re young, tend to see our parents. We only understand them insofar as it affects us. Young people are self-centered—we were all self-centered at eighteen. However important our parents are to us, all we really care about is how their actions impact our lives. Their feelings don’t really matter. So, while as a parent I might resent this dismissal of parental insight, I have to admit that it felt right in this book. Jackson and Ben only need to know as much about their parents as it touches on their lives. It is their broken brotherhood that they need to rebuild. “Remember My Name” is all about the rebuilding.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
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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