Reviewed by: Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Guild Review Team
I’ve come at B.G. Thomas backwards, and have grown to truly appreciate his realistic, personal style. Other comments on other books led me to his earlier “seasons” series, and to this volume in particular.
“Spring Affair” follows the lives of four friends Wyatt, Sloan, Scott, Asher. Each, in his own way, is an archetype of a young-ish (ie. 30 something), Midwestern gay man. Calling themselves the “Fabulous Four,” they become a sort of backup group to the lead singer of this story: Sloan McKenna. Sloan is still mooning over Asher, with whom he had a one-night-stand years earlier. Sloan is a romantic, Asher is a love-em-and-leave-em kind of guy. Scott is a cynical frustrated romantic, disliking his own body and endlessly searching for love online. Wyatt is in an open relationship, but one that seems (to Sloan at least) meager in its rewards.
But this substantial novel is Sloan’s story. He is grieving doubly. On top of his unresolved love for Asher, Sloan’s much-loved mother has recently died, and he is back in the house where he grew up, having cared for her during her final illness. His circle of friends offer comfort, but not always the kind he wants. Working in a call center owned by the mythical Peter Wagner (who appears, benevolently Zeus-like, in many of Thomas’s novels), Sloan is thirty and still somewhat adrift.
The monkey wrench that upsets the marginal functionality of Sloan’s life is Max Turner, his mother’s longtime neighbor to whom Sloan has never paid much attention. Living in his mother’s house again, Sloan suddenly becomes aware of the man who spent years helping his mother with her garden – the small but opulent garden that serves as a charming metaphor for life’s potential. Max is tall, muscular, bearded – and also married to Lauren, a gorgeous blond, with whom he has a teenaged son named Logan.
The kicker is that this book is also Max’s story. Content to be teaching at the small local college, comfortable in his stylish bungalow, Max is living out his father’s wishes – having married his high school sweetheart and having provided him with a grandson. His wife, on the other hand, is ambitious and completely enamored with everything French. She heads off for a two-month business trip to Paris, leaving her husband and son alone in Missouri. Max becomes increasingly conscious of the slender, pale redhead (lord, what is it with redheads – a particular thing of mine?) next door, and of his own repressed feelings. When Max discovered that his fourteen-year-old son might be gay, the carefully constructed all around his world begins to fall apart.
What is nominally a novel that explores the unhappiness of two young men facing up to lives that are not fully satisfying becomes a microcosmic overview of the lives of gay men of a certain generation. I was particularly moved (and surprised) by the resonance that these characters had for me, even though all of them could be my sons. For all the huge changes of the past 40 years (since I came out), gay men (even privileged, white gay men) still struggle to find happiness in a world where other people tell them what they’re supposed to want and feel.
Two moments in this book that I particularly loved were Max’s son Logan, and his coming out story; and Max’s wife, Lauren and her back story. Logan’s interaction with his father brought tears to my eyes. I was prepared to dislike Lauren for all sorts of reasons, as she is inevitably cast as the villainess in the piece. But her story, which only comes to the fore at the end of the book, becomes a catalyst and a revelation that made me rethink my own attitudes. Life is messy, and love just makes it messier.