Sunday, January 1, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Well with My Soul by Gregory G. Allen

Release Date: October 11th, 2011
Publisher: ASD
Page Count: 327
Source: Directly from author for review
Brothers testing the bonds of blood...

Jacob and Noah Garrett are brothers harboring a lifelong resentment towards each other while dealing with their own compulsive obsessions. One is a liberal gay man who forsakes his family and moves to New York City from Tennessee to make his mark on the world. The other is a southern conservative who is left at home holding the proverbial family bag. The story follows their loosely intertwined lives through the wild times of the late seventies and the restraint of the Reagan years in which one brother ends up becoming a minister and preaching his doctrine while the other believes there are some things people are born with and not meant to change. Well with My Soul is told through the perspective of both brothers and shows how misguided choices can drastically affect those around you for years to come; and how family may be all that one has when looking for peace to stifle the embers that smolder beneath the surface.
What Stephanie Thinks: The southern family values give this book a bit of a slow start, but the pace picks up thrillingly when Jacob, the elder and more attention-seeking of the Garrett brothers, moves out to begin his career as a high-profile male model in the Big Apple. There, he discovers the ecstatic delights of sex and drugs, and is finally fully able to embrace his gay identity with his loving partner, Gary. For a large portion of Well with My Soul, partying and bright city life contrast the drawl of Noah's day-to-day routine back home in Tennessee with stern but compassionate Mama. However, one disastrous night, one epiphany spirals those simple themes into a hardcore debate of faith and self. Ultimately, not-so-extraordinary lives are affected by long-term decisions, we learn—and they could even dwindle down to matters of survival.

Gay sex in New York in the 80's only really leads to one thing: the AIDS epidemic. I'm a complete RENThead; I can't say I'm still not moved by the history of the HIV disease, no matter how many times I come across it in cinema and literature. It makes for a tragic chronicle, especially when intertwined in a love story, and it's one of those things that makes my heart twist at every mention.

Allen's universal message—that being untrue to oneself, in time, will have its consequences—resonates in his soulful and devastating novel. While the prose itself isn't anything special, and the dialogue often weak, the characters are heavy and realistic, and the plot so developed, that it's hard not to become engrossed. I recommend this one to anybody who enjoys southern literary fiction, gay fiction, and doleful love stories like Larson's RENT.

Stephanie Loves: "'We're all whores in one way or another.'"

Radical Rating: 8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥