Dream Boy - Jim Grimsley
By the author of Comfort and Joy (one of my favourites on the list) this book came with high expectations and didnít fail in one single way! What a read! You are drawn into this book by the voice of Nathan, a young boy in rural southern America. Nathan is an only child and he and his parents move to a old farm, very close to the newly-built replacement which still houses the original farmer, his wife and their son, Roy. Roy is older than Nathan, possibly about sixteen, although this is never made very clear.
Nathan is a lovely little boy: sensitive, bright, funny. He and Roy begin a friendship that develops into something much more for both of them, but especially for Nathan who desperately needs someone to love. He needs a protector, too, for Nathan is carrying a secret that is so dreadful he is unable to articulate it or even bring it consciously into his mind where he would have a chance to combat its power.
As the summer turns into autumn, Nathan and Roy become increasingly intimate. The sex scenes between the boys are lyrical rather than explicit, so that in the one explicit moment I drew in a sharp breath of shock.
Events begin to close in around Nathan and Roy: other people becoming involved and ruining their romantic idyll. On a camping trip with Royís other friends, Randy and Brett, things spiral out of control to a devastating and breathtaking climax.
There are moments in this book where the hair stood up on the back on my neck. The writing is so powerful that you feel exhausted reading it, but canít put it down because you just want more and more.
Jim Grimsley is a wonderful author. This book couldnít be more different in style or plot to Comfort and Joy, but it has an essential quality in common: deep respect for life.
Do give this book a go. I hesitate to say life changing, but it will give you a few sleepless nights.
Itís so easy to read this book you think it must be simple and straightforward.† But itís not.† Though I read the novel in just a few hours itís very special.† Light narrative flow hides dark undercurrents bubbling below the surface.†
The novel is literally spine-tingling.† Hypnotic and lulling like a bedtime story, it induces a dream state.† A beautiful gay romance, a story of first love.† But itís a fairytale with lurking horror and tragedy that twists convention.† Instead of a wicked stepmother we have a father figure with evil designs, and a boy whoís the object of his intent.† Normally itís the woods that are unsafe.† Here danger lurks at home.†
The story is set in North Carolina, which Grimsley paints in vivid detail.† He uses place like a character in his writing.† It is intensely visual, with intense mood and atmosphere.† Graveyards, a haunted house, old slave quarters, an Indian mound, dense, dark woods.† Typical locations for the horror genre. However this book is far from the usual. Stephen King territory given a literary make-over.
Young Nathan moves around a lot.† His family has just moved into a new house.† He is small and quiet, very intelligent.† Roy next door is a good natured farm boy, slightly older, who plays high school baseball and boasts about his girlfriend.† The boys are drawn together from the start.† A tender romance develops, both of them aching with longing during snatched meetings.† Thereís something almost magical, since neither boy seems to quite understand whatís happening.† Roy insists it has to be a secret between them.† Nathan is used to keeping secrets.† Grimsley handles a difficult subject with great sensitivity and without sensationalism.†
Nathan is sensitive to signs and signals, subtle nuances.† He reads Roy because heís used to judging his fatherís moods, knowing what he wants and when.† His motherís quiet complicity and Nathanís acceptance of her silence is disturbing but realistic.† Nathanís attempts to ward of his fatherís advances donít make easy reading.† This book made me cry several times.†
I read the novel in a turmoil of emotion-† fear and dread, maternal feeling for a helpless child, erotic charge at the loving relationship between Nathan & Roy, pity for an ineffectual mother unable to protect her child, anger at a father who uses his son to satisfy forbidden desire then mouths scripture to ward off damnation.††
Nathan has coping mechanisms to survive loss of innocence and psychological trauma.† He finds comfort in Jesus who loved his disciple John, and encouraged him to lay his head on his breast at the last Supper, whose practitioners condemn those who love like Nathan to Hell.
The writing is stunning.† I was disappointed in the last Grimsley book we read, Boulevard, but this one shows the author on top form, a master storyteller whose words seep into your consciousness with characters so real you feel their emotions as your own.†† Itís hard for a review like this to do the book justice because so much of what I liked about it is pure emotional connection, very personal and impossible to describe.† I had to read the final section a few times to get clear in my mind what exactly was going on, but not because the writing is bad.† I simply was so deeply moved I couldnít take it all in one go.
Really, I canít recommend this amazing book highly enough.† You must read it.