The City Kid - Paul Reidinger

Ladymol's Review:

I finished this book and now want to buy and read Paul Reidingerís others. This is what a book should be: thought provoking, challenging, sexy, deeply moving, and well written.

Guy, a forty-year-old man, lives in San Francisco, sharing an apartment with a friend from college, Susanne. Guy is gay and recovering from the ending of a ten-year relationship, which has left him, naturally, reticent, unsure of his place in the worldóparticularly in the gay world, which tends to revolve around younger men.

Doug is sixteen. Doug is starting out on the journey of life, and his foundationsóhis familyóhave been rocked. He leans toward Guy for many reasons, and equally, Guy is drawn to Doug.

The novel traces their relationship: their meetings and partings as they negotiate Dougís journey. Almost every line has something profound to say about life, love and the human condition, but itís never ponderous or moralising. People are weak; people are mean; but people are peopleóbeautiful and just trying to get along, surviving the life.

This book actually had the power to surprise me. It constantly didnít do what I expected it to do, which was utterly refreshing. Itís an example how to say something by not saying it, show underlying motivations not by what people do, but by what they donít do.

A beautifully crafted novel, which will floor you with its sharp honesty.† I highly recommend this book.

Cerisaye's Review:

I picked up this book with no particular expectations, as it was one of Jennyís picks.† Excellent choice.† A thought-provoking novel I recommend very highly.† I avoided the detailed comments filling the inside pages, and I suggest you do likewise.† Itís hard to review a book without revelations, though we do try.†

Itís deceptively simple:† Guy, 40 year-old man meets Doug, 16 year-old boy above a nudist beach near the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.† They become friends, meeting together at intervals and the story reduced to its bare bones concerns their unfolding relationship.††

Sounds all too familiar: sexually emerging youth meets gay middle-age age, with inevitable consequences.† If weíre lucky a thoughtful coming-of-age story.† Thatís part of the equation.† If that was all, I wouldnít be pushing it as a must-read.† Beautifully written and painfully perceptive, at times this book makes difficult reading because itís honest and unsentimental.† As parent of two male teen-agers, I think Iím familiar with the beast (sorry, boys!) so itís a compliment to Reidinger that his youthful characterís voice and behaviour convinced me.

Guy emerged from a long-term gay partnership 2 years before the book begins, battered and bruised.† He wonders if heís better off alone, freed from the inconveniences and embarrassments of infatuation, the false promise of fleeting intimacy.† In fact, heís inclined to give credence to hetero societyís belief in the hopelessness of male love.† On the other hand, heís lonely. Thereís a hole where his lover used to be. Early on thereís an account- very erotic- of Guyís sexual induction when he was 16 by a gorgeous older man, Michael, whoís married with a child.† So, Guy re-enacts his youthful seduction, cast this time in the adult role?† The story plays subtly with our expectations.†

Guy knew at 16 he was gay, and got exactly what he wanted from Michael.† Itís a fond memory.† Doug is confused, struggling with his sexual identity, from a home rich in material comfort but short on demonstrable love and affection.† Dougís father, Ross, wants him to be a man but his idea of what that means is at odds with a sensitive boy closer to David, a gay friend of his motherís than to his emotionally repressed, homophobic dad.† Guy is smitten by Doug, but wary of a potentially dangerous (to him) and damaging (to Doug) relationship.† Itís a fear all gay men live with, getting caught in incriminating circumstances with an under-aged beautiful boy. Yet he canít ignore a cry for help.† Guy reflects on the sadness of a world where his love for Michael became something sordid and twisted, illicit passion shared with a man terrified of discovery. Heís aware of gay self-destruction, the inevitable consequence of denial, and the pressure this puts on men who pretend to be what they are not.† A powder-keg waiting to blow.† And so unnecessary.

In a convincing story heavily laden with sexual tension the book explores the minefield of this complex relationship.† Is Guy to be Dougís mentor, guiding him through a difficult time in his life, a father figure?† Or his teacher, sharing the physical expression of love to reveal to ready and willing youth the secrets of gay sex?† Guy and Doug are both on a journey.† This is indeed a coming-of-age story, just not the one you expect. And the ending?† It felt just right.†

Harrington Park Press. ISBN: 1560231688

Buy from Lambda Rising Booksellers in the States

Back to Fiction Review Index