Title: My Favorite Uncle
Author: Marshall Thornton
Publisher: Wilde City
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Martin Dixon’s carefully-constructed, peaceful life is turned upside down when his super Christian eighteen-year-old nephew Carter shows up unexpectedly on his doorstep and announces he’s gay. Martin’s first impulse is to send him back to his parents. But when he discovers that Carter has been in a mental hospital to cure his gay-ness he realizes he’s stuck with the boy. Unfortunately, the two get on each other’s nerves, each driving the other to distraction. Independently, however, they each arrive at the same conclusion. The other would be much less annoying if he only had… a boyfriend.
Marshall Thornton’s latest departure from the “Boystown” series is an understated masterpiece, tiptoeing into young adult territory without ever losing sight of its very grown-up personality and audience.
From the cartoon-like drawings on the cover of “My Favorite Uncle” to the light-hearted sit-comic tone of the writing, Thornton’s book disguises a complex, sober story under the droll banter and teenaged eye-rolling of “Modern Family” (one, I hasten to add, that would never make it on national TV).
Martin may not be happy, but having his gay teenaged nephew appear on his doorstep isn’t going to help. Carter, newly eighteen and out, has fled his born-again family on the assumption that his gay uncle in Los Angeles will welcome him with open arms.
Truth is, Martin is sort of a prig. He is so wrapped in layers of self-protection that his naturally generous heart has almost forgotten how to care. Thornton doesn’t make it easy to like Martin, or indeed many of the gay characters in this book. This is not a fantasy of gay perfection; this is study in human flaws and forgiveness.
Carter, at eighteen, is as self-centered and cluelessly arrogant as any man his age (I have two kids, eighteen and nineteen, I know what I’m talking about). Certainly exacerbated by his strict fundamentalist upbringing, Carter has a distinct fantasy of how life with his gay uncle should be, and when it doesn’t turn out that way, he sulks.
Thornton has managed to create two strong, beautifully-crafted characters, each representing a specific aspect of what it is to be a gay man today. This is not a book that paints a rosy picture of being gay, Both Martin and Carter are damaged, for very different reasons; some of which, as it happens, are their own damn fault.
The miracle of this book is that Thornton’s almost farcical narrative gradually peels away layers of pain and confusion to reveal the two men’s big hearts. It is not a straightforward path, and this book, at times, was not an easy read for me. There is pain here, some of it caused by stupid choices, more of it caused by the thoughtless cruelty of others. And while there is no horrific tragedy, we get to see the many sorrows of ordinary life amplified by being gay in a world that teaches too many bad lessons about what that means.
Just because Martin has been out and proud since Stonewall doesn’t mean he hasn’t internalized bad information. His self-defeating attitudes are frustrating. Carter’s misinformed upbringing is not treated too darkly, but misses being humorous because his problems can’t be solved with smart remarks and easy answers. As annoyingly eighteen as he is, we see a boy so desperate for love that he’ll grasp at anything while shying away from what he really needs.
Oh, and I’d like to mention how grateful I am for characters who are almost fifty. It’s nice to have some affirmation that we don’t all disappear in late middle age.
It is the miracle of “My Favorite Uncle” that we get to watch these two men fumble toward something good even as they make every possible mistake along the way. There is really nothing very romantic in this book; I’d even say it’s almost anti-romantic. Because love is not, in the end, romantic. Love is, it seems, doing what you have to do to survive. And that was the novel’s biggest surprise of all.
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,
|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.|