A Caryn Review: Midlife Crisis by Audra North

Standard

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is the first book I’ve read by this author, and I’m so happy to have discovered her.  The book was everything I hoped it would be, and then some.

There is something so special about finding love when you’re older – whether you’ve lost a partner, or never had one, it always, to me anyway, feels like getting more than you thought you could expect.  I think when we’re young, there is a part of us that feels life owes us true love, but by the time we hit middle age, we realize life doesn’t really work that way, and finding it then is a true gift.  Which is why I love these older men!

Cam McGhee is 54 years old, and has left his home town of Bitter, Texas, for basically the first time in his life.  Bitter is an all-black farming town that’s existed for generations.  The community has learned to survive the Southern racism surrounding it by being self-sufficient, trusting and relying on each other, which has always meant behaving within a certain set of unspoken rules.  Following those rules kept them safe, and if it restricted the denizen’s freedom a little bit, well, it was worth it.  Cam grew up in this town of very conservative ideals, and though he knew he was gay from the time he was a young teenager, he also knew that he couldn’t ever admit it and still be accepted.  He started dating LaVerne in high school as a cover, but with small town expectations being what they were, he ended up marrying her, having two children, and staying with her faithfully until she died.  He left his successful feed and grain business in Bitter in his son’s hands, and moved to Austin, Texas, for 6 months, where he hoped to finally experience life as a gay man, at least temporarily, before he buried it all again and moved back to Bitter.

Cam met Dave Montoya at a coffee shop.  Cam had no idea how to approach a man, and his shyness was almost crippling, but Dave made things easy for him.  Dave is a successful, independent man from Connecticut who found his home in Austin, and who has lived his entire life as an out gay man.  Dave had his own reasons for not wanting to jump into casual hookups, and so moving slowly with Cam was natural and easy.  Almost without realizing it was happening, and certainly not intending for it to happen, they fell in love.  Which would have been wonderful, but Cam’s stay in Austin had an expiration date.

The story is told with alternating scenes from Cam’s present in Austin, and flashbacks to his life in Bitter.  I know flashbacks get a bad rap, but in this case, they were the perfect vehicle to show the stark differences between who Cam was, and who he wanted to be, and why he struggled so hard to reconcile these parts of himself.  As Cam and Dave meet and start dating, the story flashed back to Cam and LaVerne’s meeting, and Cam’s conscious decision to use LaVerne as a beard.  When Cam kissed Dave for the first time, he inevitably compared his physical response – as amazing as he’d always hoped kissing a man would be – to his sexual life with LaVerne.  As he started falling in love with Dave, Cam thought of the love he had for LaVerne – platonic, but strong despite the continual guilt he felt for not loving her the way a man should love his wife.  Cam was faithful, generous, and had a strong sense of responsibility and duty – attributes which kept him in Bitter for over 50 years, and when he saw the opportunity to have a different type of life with Dave, he still struggled with the choice:  could he stay in Austin with the man he loved, and life the life he’d always wanted, when doing so meant abandoning his friends and family in Bitter?

Another aspect of the book that I really appreciated was that racism was not front and center.  While it certainly made Bitter into the community it was (and what an interesting choice of name for the town!), once Cam came to Austin, he was just another man, not primarily a man of color.  There was a lot more homophobia mentioned than racism, but again, Dave’s friends and family showed Cam that homophobia wasn’t ubiquitous, and a full life as an out gay man was indeed possible.

Very highly recommended!

Cover art by LC Chase is perfect for the book

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 205 pages
Published August 28th 2017 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626496453

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