Desert Isle Keeper
The River Leith
Get out your tissues for this incredibly moving and superbly poignant gay romance that explores the lost and found qualities of memory loss on two men in New York City.
When Leith Wenz is dealt an illegal blow to the head during a boxing match and goes into a coma, his lover, friends, and family are devastated. They rejoice, especially lover Zach, when Leith awakes. The good news is that he’ll live. The bad news is that he’s can’t remember the last three years of his life – three years in which he got out of prison, his father died, and he met and fell in love with Zach. In fact, he doesn’t remember Zach at all.
Told with interludes of Zach’s on-going vlog posts, the story is one of grieving. Leith is horrified that so much of who he is has been stripped away. He’s lost and terrified that he’ll never find his way back to being a whole person again. Fortunately, he has a loyal brother and a good psychologist to help him along the way.
His lover Zach also wants to be supportive, but Leith’s memory loss is akin to Leith’s death as far as Zach is concerned. Every time Zach sees him, Zach is hit by how much he’s lost, how much they’ve lost. So in a sense Zach is also grieving, just as Leith is.
For those like me who don’t know, the River Lethe in Greek myth is the place in the underworld where the dead drank the water in order to purge the memories of their lives before they crossed the River Styx into the afterlife. The name Zachariah, on the other hand, translates to mean “memory of the Lord.” But before Leith’s doctor tells him of the myth and the definition, Leith must rediscover that he’s gay and his friend Zach is in fact his lover since all of these revelations came to Leith in the three-year period he’s lost.
Obviously, given the weight of all the component parts, this story could have devolved into a morass of breast-beating and hysterical emotion. Instead, it’s a pithy examination of how memory loss needs to be treated like death in order for the sufferer and those who know him to get on with life.
The addition of the modern vlog that Zach has kept up since meeting Leith is interesting because it helps Zach talk about his emotions in meeting and interacting with the new Leith. It also provides a unique way for Leith to reconnect with his lover and visit the road they had traveled together.
As characters both Leith and Zach are good, everyday men, unprepared for the strange new world in which they’ve landed. While once Zach took his cues from Leith, now Leith is the one lost and needs Zach’s strong hand to guide him. Both men are put to the test and in order to live together again must realign themselves with the new reality. The journey is nothing if not harrowing.
I’d never heard of Leta Blake before, but now I can’t wait to read her next book.