Sunday, August 29, 2010

What We Remember and The Road Home by Michael Thomas Ford

I first met Michael Thomas Ford soon after the publication of his very popular book of essays called Alec Baldwin Doesn’t Love Me.(Alyson, 1997). I found him to be witty and charming, as well as a damn good writer. Little did I know at the time that he was at beginning of what has become an extraordinary career?

Ford has published over fifty works for Young Adult and Adults, and seems to spawn new ideas for books rather quickly. Not only does he excel in the gay romance genre, but writes horror books and mysteries as well. He has also added his take on the Jane Austen craze, with the publication of  Jane Bites Back (Ballantine Books, 2009), and has a soon to be published work about zombies called Z (Harper Teen, 2010).

What We Remember (Kensington, 2009) was recently awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Mystery, and it is a book that is wonderfully told and cleverly plotted. What starts out feeling like yet another domestic drama quickly turns into a mystery that keeps us guessing until the very end.

In the other work I am going to talk about, The Road Home, there is a mystery as well, and one of the characters says “mysteries need to be solved”, and another answers, “not always…isn’t it enough that we’ve figured it out?”

It is with the figuring out, as well as finding out what drives the characters to do the things they do, that makes this book as enjoyable as it is. Of course the mystery is fun to solve, but what we get in addition makes it an even more compelling read.

What We Remember tells the story of two families, the McClouds and the Derrys. They have been brought together through marriage and friendship, and the interweaving of lives is a significant theme here.

When the story begins, we learn that Dan McCloud, who was a police officer in Cold Falls, NY, has been missing for 7 years, and is presumed dead. He sent his wife a letter indicating that he was sick and was going to commit suicide. Although no one really knows for sure, the family and others have moved on, with various degrees of success.

With the sudden discovery of his body, all evidence indicates that he was murdered, and his oldest son James becomes the prime suspect. The arresting officer is the son of Dan’s best friend, and is James’ brother in law. Of course this creates tremendous tension within the families. Did James do it? Who else could it have been?

We discover, as we read on, that the key to unlocking the mystery is less about the how than it is about the why. What We Remember is told by alternating the past and the present, a device that reveals a great deal about the why.

Perhaps the most interesting character in the book is Dan’s youngest son Billy. He is the gay brother, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and is clearly the black sheep of the family. That being said, he is the one whose memory is the most reliable. He is the one that brings this story to its stunning conclusion. To say any more would spoil the mystery.

This book is an engaging and fun to read page turner. You get a lot more than you might expect, and that is a good thing. I recommend it highly.

The Road Home (Kensington, 2010) tells an entirely different story, containing the familiar elements of Ford’s very popular Last Summer and Full Circle. Yes, this has all the ingredients of a gay romance, but it is much more. This is a book about an inner journey of self-discovery and the life changing decisions that occur as a result .

Photographer Burke Crenshaw is forced to return to his family home in Vermont as a result of a serious car accident, which happens on his 40th birthday. As a result, Burke is not only confronted with his past, but is given the opportunity to reflect on his future. Just what is he going to do with his life?

While there, Burke meets Will, who is the son of a man Burke had a crush on in high school. Will becomes Burke's companion, and eventually they have sex. Burke is conflicted, not only by the age difference, but with the realization that Will is at odds with confronting his sexuality, considering the societal price he feels he would have to pay. After all, Burke is comfortable with himself..or is he?

Ford adds  a wonderful cast of characters to the story. There is a deliciously dandified gentleman named Gaither Lucas, a woman named Lucy, who is Burke's father's companion, and a librarian named Sam. All of them add a rich texture to the plot, making it fun and exciting. There is also a delightful segment devoted to the Radical Faeries, which is enchanting and magical.

Burke rediscovers his passion for photography and happens upon a curious mystery as a result of some old Civil War prints. There is a bit of a ghost story here as well, which is one of the things which made this book even more of a page turner for me. So you see, this book has a lot of things to offer, all the while giving you the opportunity to think about your own life. What a bargain!

I so loved this book, that it made me want to go back and fill myself full of Michael’s previous works, and I think you will too. So, which ever one you start with, you won't be disappointed.

I spoke with Michael on the MyQmunity Gay and Lesbian Book Talk show, and, as I mentioned above, he is preparing to launch yet another offering, a young adult book called Z. Call it a book about zombies, and like the others, you'll find out it's about a lot more.

Listen to my chat with Michael by following the link from the MyQmunity Arts Facebook page, or going directly to

Next week I will be reviewing Karin Kallmaker's Above Temptation (Bella Books, 2010

Until then, happy reading.

Robert Jaquay,

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