A 4* review from Ulysses for A.C. Burch’s – ‘The Homeport Journals’
Author: A.C. Burch
Publisher: Wilde City
Cover Artist: unknown
Rating: 4.0 of 5 Stars
Fleeing New York City and an abusive partner, would-be writer Marc Nugent finds work at HomePort, the Provincetown mansion of Lola Staunton, a fabulously wealthy recluse. Aided by an attractive-but-unattainable artist and an all-too-available cross-dresser, Marc investigates accusations of rape and murder that have estranged Lola from a childhood friend for more than sixty years. Past and present converge when a long-lost journal reveals tales of infidelity, adultery, and passion that mirror the life Marc has recently abandoned. When his ex-lover arrives in search of revenge, Marc must confront his past, his notions of family, and his capacity for love.
You never really know a place until you live there.
With this line begins and ends A.C. Burch’s charming and heartwarming novel, a tiny epic of personal salvation in the legendary gay sanctuary on Cape Cod.
Marcus Nugent has run away and ended up in Provincetown. Dorrie Machado, whom he rescues and allows to steal his hot chocolate, recognizes it right away, and steers him to the kitchen door of HomePort. Dorrie knows that the eccentric and reclusive Lola Staunton will like him and will give him a job.
While the book is written in the third person present tense (an odd choice, but I got used to it), Marc is far from alone. He is surrounded by a Dickensian cast of characters essential to his drama. Aside from the octogenarian Dorrie and the nonagenarian Lola, Marc is quickly engaged in the lives of Lola’s housekeeper, drag queen Helena Handbasket, her handyman, Cole Hanson, and her financial advisor, Charlotte Grubb. Each of these folks touches us with his story, and all of them become important in Marc’s efforts to forge a new life.
I would have given the book five stars if the writing had remained as poetically beautiful throughout as it struck me in the opening chapter. In the beginning, when Marcus Nugent is alone and frightened and we don’t quite understand why he’s run from his own life, the book feels like something very different, something quite serious.
Burch’s writing is never bad, but it becomes more prosaic as he gets caught up in the plot, a winsomely melodramatic ghost story-cum-murder mystery focused on Lola and Dorrie’s past and the intertwined destinies of their families.
That said, Burch gives us much to pull at our heartstrings, including more than one affair of the heart. Love and death and redemption are key ingredients, and the author doles them out in appropriate portions as Marc redefines himself through the lens of his newfound home.
At an especially apt moment, we have this quotation from Elizabeth Barrett Browning that brought me up short:
“Guess now who holds thee?”
“Death,” I said. But there,
The silver answer rang,
“Not Death, but Love.”
If Burch somewhat loses the seriousness of the book in its plot and shifting tone, he never lets go of the book’s heart. At first we only see the comic aspects of Dorrie, Lola and Helena, but Burch ultimately peels away their surface and lets us see into these complex characters, exposing them to our understanding and affection. Cole and Marc are the sole players who are never treated comically, and it is this slightly inconsistent tenor that keeps the book from feeling entirely coherent. Perhaps Burch is simply more like Dickens—who mixed comedy and tragedy quite freely. But as I read “The HomePort Journals” I kept thinking of Vincent Virga’s legendary gay epic “Gaywyck,” which for all its camp title maintained a clear-eyed period melancholy throughout and is surprisingly powerful in its consistency.
None of this is to say that I didn’t like this book a great deal. I have my own fond memories of Provincetown, which date back to my youth and first love. It always feels like such a small town, and it is fascinating to see how Burch manages to fit such a “Rebecca”-like romance into the narrow, twisting streets of this little fishing village.
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,
|This post may contain affiliate links.
|Prism Book Alliance® assumes no liability for the ownership of photos or content used in guest posts and interviews. The post author assumes all responsibility and liability for this content.|