The Nothingness of Ben
Grade : A

I usually stay away from debut novels, but when the Amazon aggregate said because I’d read and enjoyed Sean Kennedy that I’d enjoy Boney’s book, I was in the right mood to say, “Show me!” And Boney did, in spades.

When his parents are suddenly killed in an accident, attorney Ben Walsh comes home to find his three younger brothers dreading what will happen to them. As a openly gay man, Ben is an anathema to his aunts and uncles who are eager to take the younger boys out of his harmful reach.

At first Ben is okay with this, but Travis Atwood, who boards across the street from the Walsh house and has become a fixture in their lives, thinks this is the worst thing that could happen to them. So Ben – who really misses New York City and his life there – rethinks his decision as he watches Quentin, Jason, and Cade while they all try to get through the funerals and burials.

Much to the surprise of his relatives at the reading of the will, Ben says he will stay in Austin and take care of his brothers. This is met with mixed reactions from the boys.

Teenage Quentin is resentful of Travis since Quent thinks his brother abandoned him and the family when he left to go to New York. Jason, the artistic middle brother, sure that he too is gay, is unsure how this will play out in his life especially given how his aunts and uncles treat Ben. Cade, the youngest, is polite to Ben, but loves Travis, and would rather have Travis raise him.

Into this quagmire Ben wades, at first being the permissive brother who organizes movie nights as he gets the boys back on schedule with school and activities. Fortunately for all of them, Travis too steps up to help, proving himself to be a good cook so their meals aren’t all pizzas and burgers.

As Ben and Travis work together, they get closer romantically even though Travis has a girlfriend. But there’s something about Ben that pulls Travis, and on Valentine’s day he drops the girlfriend and in confusion, comes to be with Ben.

All would be perfect in the Walsh family except Ben is somewhat ashamed of the redneck, uneducated Travis. This becomes painfully clear when the family visits New York City and Travis doesn’t mesh with Ben’s old friends. After the trip, it takes a lot of work for Ben to become the head of his family and to accept Travis for the man he is.

This partial plot summary only tips the surface of a novel that resounds with depth and perception. By the end of the book, readers not only know all the Walshes and Travis intimately, but become part of the extended family. Boney writes a tight book that has no lagging moments. Everything is crisp and relevant.

Ben muddles his way through his personal loss of his parents, particularly his scholarly but accepting father, and believably waffles about whether to become a parent or older brother to his siblings. Adding Travis to the mix when he’s establishing himself in the family is a nice counterpoint to how much Ben has missed in family relations.

The brothers are a joy, each with his own personality, hopes, and dreams. None are cookie-cutter characters, but each shines as he must deal with the much older Ben. And Travis is the frosting on the cake, holding the entire piece snuggly together.

This is a book that will live in the hearts of readers for a very long time. As for myself, I can’t wait to read Boney’s next book. If it’s even half as good as this one, it too will be a keeper.

Reviewed by Pat Henshaw

Grade: A

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : January 19, 2013

Publication Date: 2012/11

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