Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Bisexual musician Cody Bellstrom is a free spirit, easygoing and unattached. On a cross-country trip, Cody befriends young Sandy Nixon and gets him safely to Portland and his uncle, Phineas MacDonald. Beautiful Phineas turns Cody’s life upside down, and Cody learns he’s not as unattached as he aspires to be. With the hard-won knowledge of what lies underneath his need to be free, Cody wins a chance at real freedom and true love.
Ever since his longtime lover Allen died, Phineas MacDonald has lived a circumscribed life. He stopped performing as fierce drag queen Phanny Hill and works part-time in a bookstore. Phineas never expected to find love again. But when sexy and caring Cody Bellstrom turns up, Phineas feels his orderly life slipping out of his control. Cody brings him alive again, but now Phineas must find the courage to let go of his grief over Allen and give love a second chance.
“And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.” – Buckaroo Banzai, (and possibly Confucius)
A story whose author has one of my favorite quotes worked into her story’s tapestry has already won me over. Of course it doesn’t hurt that I thought highly of this story’s precursor too. That would be Wild and Precious where we first met Cody Bellstrom in Washington, DC, where things didn’t quite work out for him. Now, he’s looking for a new start and he thinks he’s found it on the opposite coast…Portland to be exact.
In Wild and Precious, it was Mary Oliver’s poem, ‘The Summer Day’, that wound through that story like a ribbon pulling it all together. In There You Are, its this quote that becomes not just the narrative device that moves through the story but a revelatory element for Cody as well at the end. Its this special literary touch that really works for me in these two stories that helps elevate them as well.
This is also a story of multiple relationships and of letting go, that painful fact of life we’ve all dealt with. Phineas must deal with his grief over his loss of Allen (something he hasn’t done), there is the blossoming new relationship with Cody which can’t move forward just yet, a new (fatherly) relationship with with his nephew Sandy and he must learn enough, become alive enough to bring back ‘Phanny Hill’, who has her own fierce inner voice here. And if that ‘s not enough there is Cody, who has his own issues with the past that he has never looked at and will need to if he isn’t going to start running again and lose what he has always wanted.
I thought CJane Elliot did a remarkable job in getting the family dynamics right, the harsh as well as the tender. I loved the confusion and support that flowed from Phineas, when the call came that would shake up his life as well as the wonderfully descriptive train ride that Cody and Sandy took west to Portland.
If I had anything I wish I could change, it would be to expand some sections of the story. This is a huge tale and yet the author crammed it into 101 pages. The section where Cody talked to the actor? We needed more of a revelation. So did the subsequent events. Still, this is such a wonderful story, that it quite stands on its own. You don’t need to read the first book to understand Cody and his history. It serves only as a nice addendum to this story and lovely way to meet the strong lesbian couple who shows up here as Cody’s continued support and sounding board.
Looking for a story with a huge heart and depth? This book has enough for one double the length. There You Are will intelligent, warm hearted and very well written. I highly recommend it.
Cover Artist: AngstyG. I love the cover. That one model especially works for Cody.