Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Milt’s husband of many years, Corky, has passed away after suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, a horrible deterioration of mind and body. As is the case with many who suffer from this disease, Corky forgot who Milt was at times and at other times was angry and resentful toward him. He escaped his home, sometimes while nude, and in short, tested Milt’s reserves to the nth degree. But Milt never stopped loving him and now, sitting in his new mobile home in Palm Springs, California, he’s far away and yet still close in his heart. Some thought Milt was being too reactionary when he packed up and moved across country, but he and his adopted dog, Ruby, are beginning to acclimate to their new lives together.
Then, along comes a flash flood and a friendly neighbor to rescue them. Billy Blue, handsome, young, a former singer, now working at Trader Joe’s is an alcoholic in recovery for several years and planning to stay that way, despite the emotional ups and downs he begins to feel when Milt enters his life. Though several years older than Billy, Milt is nevertheless exactly the man of Billy’s dreams and Billy has to exercise all his life lessons to remember that good things happen in their own time, not on his time schedule.
Those who follow my reviews know I get a little (okay, a lot) peeved when authors glaze over a “drinking problem” or have their character in detox and then have him live a happy life, drinking again whenever he’s out with friends—with no consequences. But in this story, Mr. Reed presented alcoholism and recovery, through the twelve step fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, as clearly, kindly, respectfully, and honestly as I’ve ever read. And I’m old, so I’ve read a lot! I appreciate his attention detail more than I can say.
A frequently heard term in AA is “the joy is in the journey, not the destination.” And for me, the joy was in the journey of reading this beautiful portrayal of a man coming to grips with the death of his husband, moving through the stages of grief as time goes on, and ultimately recognizing that it’s okay to love again. There’s also joy in being present for Billy’s journey as he follows direction from his sponsor and does what he’s learned is most important to his balance—to put his sobriety first. After all, he wouldn’t have any chance with Milt if he wasn’t the man he is today and that’s due to working the program.
I simply loved this story. It’s not explicit, thankfully. That wasn’t necessary. What was necessary was to allow two men to have an opportunity to get to know each other, become friends, and eventually move to a firm and loving relationship. Slow burn, hurt-comfort, age gap, men over forty, grief, men with pets—I can think of many more tags I’d use for this one. But ultimately, the tag I’d use first and foremost is amazing. Thank you Rick R. Reed! You have set the bar high.
The cover by Reese Dante features two men in an embrace—perhaps a kiss about to happen—set against a beautiful blue background of the sky over Palm Springs.