Home is a Fire
Jordan Nasser’s sweet debut novel is really a romantic fantasy akin to Dorothy’s adventure in the Wizard of Oz film. It’s about seeking happiness out in the world because you can’t see it in your own back yard.
Derek Walter is running away again, leaving his unbelieving boyfriend David on the downtown subway and heading back to his hometown in Parkville, Tennessee. There he reminds himself of all the happiness he had forgotten about at home; his mother, his uncle Barry, his little troop of friends from high school. He revels in the small-town South, apparently largely forgetting the reasons he fled a decade earlier. Then one of them shows up. Luke Walcott, the jock who mercilessly bullied Derek and made his life a misery, is now the football coach at the high school they both attended.
For an old hand at m/m romance like me, the various little plotlines of the story unravel pretty much as one would expect; but there is a deeper undercurrent that really drives the story. As his uncle Barry says to Derek at a moment of crisis: “You have to decide what level of happiness is acceptable for you. In my generation we didn’t have so many choices.”
This is not really a book about why small-town life is better than the rush and stress of the big city. Nor is it about the small-mindedness of the South versus the liberal attitudes of the urban North. What it’s really about is: look, listen and learn. What makes you happy? How have things changed over time, and how might that possibly affect your ability to find that happiness? This is real charm of the book, because it’s about thinking through your life as an adult rather than reacting to it like a frightened teenager.
My only disappointment in the book’s wonderful array of characters is with that of David, Derek’s New York boyfriend. Nasser treats him a little too slickly, and ultimately doesn’t allow him the same generous scope that Luke Walcott is granted. It’s not that I don’t agree with Nasser’s narrative choices, just that I think he takes the easy way out with David when he could have treated him more thoughtfully and without resorting to stereotypes.
That said, Home is a Fire is a first book to be proud of, and I look forward to Jordan Nasser’s future efforts. We need more young male writers in this genre, and his presence is more than welcome.