Daniel Stephens has written an interesting romance about starting again. Some parts are reminiscent of Call of the Wild by Jack London whilst the main story is rife with rather over stylised metaphors.
…a soft song rose from her chest in a series of howls. It rose and fell over the lake as though carried on wings of ruby-black silk. A subtle howl, uniting the living, honouring the dead, and bringing a peaceful close to another night on Wolf Thorn Lake.
Chris is selling his penthouse apartment in New York City, eighteen months after the deaths of his husband and young son in a car accident. He is moving to Wolf Thorn Lake, Maine to live in an old log cabin left to him by his grandfather. The cabin is in a state of disrepair, but reminds him of happy times in his childhood and will enable him to live the simpler life he feels he needs. Over the years he has paid a few local people to keep an eye on the property and report if anything is urgently required of him. These people call him the ‘lost boy’ and welcome him in very overly familiar terms. His friend, Maggie is selling his penthouse for him at a listing price of about eleven million dollars, indicating he has no money worries.
The journey with his dog from New York, invokes both childhood memories long suppressed and fears. Living by Wolf Thorn Lake provides a wilder and less modern way of life and abode. After a few days, Chris accepts he needs help with the house repairs, which brings him in contact with Jake, a bisexual Hippy. There is definite ‘insta-love’ or lust between them, but the purple prose and constant references to Jake being elemental or each seeing recognition in the other’s eyes, ruined any romantic connection for me.
I like expressive language in same sex romances and whilst I find there is often too little actual romance in male/male love stories, there is a limit. I will let you be the judge –here is one of the passages that failed to work for me –
When he entered his new lover, Chris’s eyes widened slightly, locked onto his own, and the corners of Chris’s mouth rose in a moment of perfection that only lovers know. But like a gauze curtain that reveals its contents through a thin, milky haze, Chris’s heart was just visible beneath the scrim. It was within view, rich and welcoming though distant.
Maybe if this was the only passage like this it might have held my attention better, but the book is full of metaphoric significance and descriptions. The secondary characters are interesting, though they’re all too good and too spiritual to feel real. This is really a story about one man overcoming his grief and starting again, but the plot is obscured by the prose rather than enriched by it. There is a sweat lodge that induces visions, masks that come to life, a blind prophetess, acid trip dreams, a confusing white wolf and the ever-present womb / female goddess lake. The inner conflict and plot are too small to invoke the cloying angst and metaphorical navel gazing that provides the bulk of this novel.
There is some beautiful writing but it is rather self-conscious and overwhelms any plot or characterisation. I would describe it as Call of the Wild meets Twin Peaks; individually classics, but together – just too much.