In the small mountain town of Amorea, it’s stretching toward autumn of 1954. The memories of a world at war are fading in the face of a prosperous future. Doors are left unlocked at night, and neighbors are always there to give each other a helping hand.
The people here know certain things as fact:
Amorea is the best little town there is.
The only good Commie is a dead Commie.
The Women’s Club of Amorea runs the town with an immaculately gloved fist.
And bookstore owner Mike Frazier loves that boy down at the diner, Sean Mellgard. Why they haven’t gotten their acts together is anybody’s guess. It may be the world’s longest courtship, but no one can deny the way they look at each other.
Slow and steady wins the race, or so they say.
But something’s wrong with Mike. He hears voices in his house late at night. There are shadows crawling along the walls, and great clouds of birds overhead that only he can see.
Something’s happening in Amorea. And Mike will do whatever he can to keep the man he loves.
The best way to read this book is to go in completely cold, so there’s no spoilers to be had from me. It is safe to say that even though the blurb above tells a lot, it really tells you nothing at all.
It’s interesting that you could probably summarize the events of the entire book in a single paragraph and not miss much, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad story. Instead, it’s a tribute to the writing. We learn about the world of Amorea bit by bit, and the mystery slowly unfolds. We see the world from Mike’s point of view, taking comfort in his daily routine. As in Wolfsong, repetition of phrases plays a key part in the storytelling. This establishes a rhythm to the story and lulling the reader into a sense of normalcy, so that when things start to go awry the effect is all the more visceral.
The relationship between Mike and Sean simply melts my heart. They go slow – maddeningly slow at times – but the wait is so worth it. The fact that the town is watching them knowingly and quietly cheering them on is simply adorable as well. The rapport that they have established over the years is sweet and charmingly old-fashioned. They have been together-but-not-dating long enough that they have the simple language of lovers, where an exchange like, “Yeah?” “Yeah.” carries a mountain of subtext. The reader cheers them on as well, and as they get closer I admit I may have shed a tear or two.
This is another winner from TJ. If you’ve read his books, I’d say it has the seriousness of Into This River I Drown (which is very subtly referenced!) but the engaging story development of Wolfsong. If you haven’t read his books, then those two are great ones to move on to when you finish this one!
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