Author: Ben Patrick Johnson
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 08/24/2015
Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)
Genre: Contemporary, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance
Inspired by true events, Splinters is an American family tragedy infused with love and hope.
After witnessing a horrific murder by their own mother in rural West Virginia, brilliant young Gerald and his baby sister Stephanie become orphans and find very different fates. Stephanie is quickly adopted, while Gerald languishes in a series of schools for boys. Eventually Gerald joins the Army and is recruited for intelligence work in a secret facility, where he becomes addicted to stimulants. When he gets thrown out of the Army for sexual impropriety, Gerald makes his way to Los Angeles, where he finds work as a go-go dancer and meets Aziah.
Young, gay, and Black, Aziah identifies with Gerald’s loneliness and difficulty fitting in. The two fall in love. Then Gerald’s addiction and the ghosts of his past begin to surface, and he vanishes. When Stephanie shows up in Los Angeles, she and Aziah must confront the question of whether Gerald is so far gone that he can’t recover.
I kept seeing rave reviews of this by friends, and then I was offered it to review for Prism.
Thanks, guys. This is (to steal a line from a movie review I just read) a tragedy with a happy ending.
It is a romance, but a gritty one. It is not about suave urban boys or quaint locations (all of which I love, incidentally). It is about Aziah Jackson, a big young black man from the south side of LA who has forged himself a comfortable blue-collar life on the north side of town, near West Hollywood. It’s about a chance meeting with Gerald Allyn, a rangy blond country boy, an ex-army intelligence runaway of sorts, raised in tragedy and alienation and living hand to mouth in Los Angeles. But Aziah thinks he’s beautiful. And Gerald thinks Aziah is beautiful, too. Love is love. It doesn’t ask permission.
Written as a first person memoir of sorts, it is Aziah’s gentle, thoughtful voice that tells us this nuanced story of bittersweet love and tentative optimism. He introduces us to his world, and his family; and through him we learn about Gerald’s history and his humanity. The narrative doesn’t flinch at unhappy things, and Johnson’s writing is as plain and strong as Aziah himself – which is to say there’s some poetry in there, but no self-importance.
Most romances give us bumps in the road, but generally they get smoothed out before the final scene. Not so with “Splinters.” We know there will be plenty of other bumps in this road, but as we read their story, we somehow develop faith in Gerald and Aziah’s chances to keep going forward.
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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