- Book Title: Between the Lines
- Author: BJ Sheppard
- Publisher: Wilde City Press (August 28, 2015)
- Book Length: 216 pages
- Genre: Gay, Contemporary, Romance
- Reviewed by: Diane
- Rating: 5 Star
- Posting Date: August 30, 2015
I will say right up front, I’m not sure how to review Between the Lines. I read it in one sitting, my emotions ratcheting from bliss to despair to anger to horror and then to quiet acceptance and eventually achieving a form of closure that will only suffice with repeated re-readings of this powerful and intensely brilliant work of literary fiction.
Yes, literary, for it transcends the narrow focus of genres and addresses the universal themes of isolation and failure, the nature of family, and the paths we each take apart and together in meeting life’s small and large challenges. It is at once life affirming and soul-crushingly brutal. It parses the lives of people for whom life has not been kind. It explores the boundaries of the human spirit and the elusive nature of courage.
It asks questions that sometimes have no answers.
This is about a man’s journey through a system that did its best by him, but at its core it was nothing more than a Band-Aid, doing no lasting harm other than to reinforce how disposable the young can be. In this, Thomas Haskell is aware he was lucky. But Thomas is not a lucky man and with his business—the only dream he ever had—in financial freefall, he grasps at straws when a friend proposes a scheme: create a book club for like-minded people, a safe place to explore gay friendly literary works.
Yet, Between the Lines is not just Thomas’ story; it’s truly an ensemble tale of strangers whose lives touch at a set of single points in time and are forever altered. There’s Elton, the author, struggling under a crushing burden of social disorders; his sister, Siobhan. Junior, an escapee from the limits of a life lived in the shadow of his father. Fiona, a force of nature. Cameron, young and closeted. Muse, transitioning in a violent world.
Folding chairs in a circle, with the aroma of coffee dispelling the scent of loneliness and isolation, acquaintanceship turns into friendship, the spark of attraction ignites and the slow dance of insecurity and denial, hope and longing commences.
And then it falls apart, in a gut-wrenching series of connected events, throwing past, present and future into disarray. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, with highs so high I soared. Lows so low I bawled and swore. I loved and hated, hoped and prayed. I was touched at a level I’ve seldom experienced before.
The characters are ordinary people who are far from being ordinary and with whom we become invested. Their backstories are masterfully woven into each person’s slice of this drama, and the author makes us care, in a deep, abiding way about each and every one.
Between the Lines is intelligent. Mesmerizing. Authentic. It is worth a galaxy of stars, but I’m only allowed FIVE STARS.
A word about the editing: Wilde City continues to impress, though there are word usages (whilst) and spellings (UK) inconsistent with a story set in current day Boston. A quibble, to be sure, but a perfect story requires, in its turn, perfect editing.
I give Between the Lines my highest recommendation and sincerely hope there are plans to publish a print edition.
In a back alley in Boston, Thomas Haskell’s bookstore is under threat of closing its doors for good. In a last ditch effort to save it, he starts a book group, inviting people to join him in appreciation of the finest in LGBT literature. What started out as a way to save his ailing sales, turns out to be the thing that saves him from a troubled past, and with the doors to his store flung open, so are the doors to his heart.
I have always loved to write, from a very early age with some rather extravagant dinosaur fairytales to more recently when I found my writers voice and finally put it to good use. It has been a dream of mine for a long time to write a book, and since finding a genre I am comfortable in, the ideas have been pouring out of me. I hope it never stops.
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