Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
This is a modern retelling of a Christmas Carol, with Pride being the celebration in question rather than Christmas. The narrator does speak to the reader in first person as in Christmas Carol and it starts with the same type sentence. “Jake was dead.” The Jake in question was co-owner of a gay bar, Good Judy’s, with his ex-love, Ben. “They met while working there, had started dating while working there.” When the boss retired, they took the leap and bought it. They were so happy for so long, then Jake left Ben and two years later, Jake died. The joy of Pride has left Ben and he keeps Good Judy going and it’s successful. But there is no happiness in it for him and he is very “meh” about the whole idea of Pride. There is nothing of Jake left in their office (and how horrible did that have to be, sharing an office with the man you still love who doesn’t want you back) except for the ashes on the shelf. He tries to deny it but he thinks of Jake all the time.
As in Christmas Carol, he wakes one night to his ex-partner’s ghost standing at the foot of his bed. “Ben didn’t believe in ghosts, or God, or much of anything anymore really.” But he believes what he is seeing is the ghost of Jake, who warns him he will be visited by three more ghosts this night and showing the chains he carries through eternity because of how unhappy he made Ben.
“My happiness wasn’t much of a concern when you left me…” Ben said.” Jake died in a car accident while drunk. “That wasn’t about you, you know, or the club, or the break-up, or anything. I was just…lonely.” But because we are never told why Jake threw Ben away, it didn’t make sense to me. Later, in a visit with the other Marsha, ghost of Pride past, Ben brings up that “All Jake had wanted to do was to leave Ben.” She tries to show him that Jake loved him or why would he “…have come here, back to this plane, wearing all those chains, because he wanted to leave you?” I was left confused because he HAD left Ben, two years before he died.
The ghosts follow the idea of Pride Past, Pride Present and Pride Future. The other Marsha shows Ben memories of meeting Jake and falling in love with him, working Good Judy’s and realizing that Jake “…was my everything.” More than he wanted to admit to this ghost, who had such a tragic past. I wanted to cry for Marsha and what she had been through. Ben decides his mother was right, that being gay makes for a lonely life.
The ghost of Pride Present, Marc, is a god-like vision who shows Ben (obviously) what is happening with all the people of Good Judy’s and the community as related to Pride. Ben doesn’t celebrate,
The third ghost, Avenir, is a gender/racial/ethnic fluid sort of thing, which I liked the most of all of them. More than Ben’s future, the possible future presented by Avenir was terrifying. “Make America Straight Again.” It is what we might become in real life and it’s frightening.
Ben is so sure that Pride and maybe gay bars altogether are no longer needed that he doesn’t believe there is a reason for keeping on. Some parts of this came across as a lesson to us, the reader, as opposed to adding to the story, while this is being explained. Some parts came across as a reminder that we are nowhere near where we need to be. “Some found solace in the bottle, some in the needle. Some never found solace at all but succumbed to self-harm. Some were beaten to death by strangers. One was left to hang on a fence and changed a nation. Some were gunned down in their sanctuary but we still feel their spirit’s pulse.” But Micah and his parents give me hope.
The ending is, as the title suggests, Pride Anthems. So many of the songs I love are on this list and there were some new to me. Anthems for Pride.
Cover art: Alex Bischoff. Eye-catching.
Kindle Edition, 55 pages
Published May 10th 2018