Monday, June 4, 2012
Cost of Repairs by A.M. Arthur
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Although this story was set in Pennsylvania, it had a somewhat Southern feel to me. Whether it was the name of the Café where Rey works, Dixie’s Cup (Dixie, the owner, was a force to recon, by the way) or the big role Samuel’s back porch plays for the story, whether it was the fact that it’s summer and warm as the story begins or the calm practicality the characters took what life dished out to them, I couldn’t say, but still. Perhaps it was the fact that this story moved slowly and unagitated like I’ve always imagined the Mississippi does. I’m not saying the story was dull, not at all, there was some pretty exciting action, especially toward the end, in the actual story as well as in the flashback sections. However, I think the picture fits this story quite well, the broad river with its calm surface and the treacherous undertows and occasional white water rapids. A river of life.
When Rey and Sam meet, they know next to nothing about each other, except for the attraction between them which is there almost from the very first second. Their afternoon hookup was actually meant as some kind of pastime, a way to act out their sexual needs which apparently hadn’t been appeased for both of them for an considerable amount of time. But, although both have their own reasons for wanting to stand back from romantic relationships, neither of them can deny that there was something more than sex even to their first tryst, though what exactly, none could say. Not that they would; neither Rey nor Sam are big on talking anyway. So they settle for mutual sympathy as a common ground to start from. Gradually, almost reluctantly sympathy turns into friendship, and love sneaks up on them as they come to trust each other, sharing bits and pieces of their pasts with each other until they realize they’re sharing a present–and maybe a future, too.
Both Sam and Rey are wonderful, impressive characters; I’ve rarely met a pair of so tortured heroes. Rey started his life under poor conditions, coming from a broken home, and being gay didn’t prove overly conductive to him. Some bad decisions he made in his youth and a dire misfortune led to him being up to his ears in debt which he works like a dog to repay while living in abject poverty. He carries a deep grief that makes him slow to open up to strangers, and while he’s too proud to take any help even if it’s offered to him, let alone ask for help, he goes out of his way to help others. In fact, Rey’s pride and deep seated wariness is one of the major obstacles he and Sam have to overcome.
But if there’s one man who can crack Rey’s shell, it’s Sam.
Sam was born into a loving, supportive family, he took up his dream job as a police officer, finding mostly acceptance as an openly gay man with his colleagues, and he had a stable long-term relationship with the man of his dreams. He lost everything in one single stroke of fate, the aftermaths of which he’s still struggling with, more than a year after the fact. And that’s why Sam is such a perfect match for Rey. Sam gets grief and heartbreak and loss, he experienced it firsthand. Sam understands Rey needing space and time, as he feels that need himself, and he understands and forgives when Rey lashes out at him in an excess of irate helplessness, as he knows exactly how this feels. It was so beautiful to watch how those two wounded men helped each other heal; Sam barely recovered enough from his own hardships to provide a shoulder to lean on for Rey; Rey so full of life despite everything that he stirred Sam out of his grief-frozen state and made him want to embrace life and love again. I particularly loved the respect and consideration with which they treated each other, there was no rushing, no pushing on either part, and between them they maintained a heartbreaking honesty that made the development of their relationship harder though all the more precious for that. For me, they came alive on the pages; even after I finished reading they stayed in my head and had me thinking about them, this is how real they were.
The writing itself was as smooth as the story, beautifully rich in imagery at times, matter-of-factly where it fit the story and laced with just the right dash of humor to keep all the drama from becoming melodramatic. The supportive cast was, for the most part, as well-drawn as the main characters. If I had any issues with this story, they occurred right at the end, with a villain who did something that was too far-fetched even for a fictional story; in the end, though, this small niggle couldn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of the story.
This was a beautiful, well thought through story with multi-layered, well drawn characters that lingered in my mind long after I finished reading and which I’ll definitely read again. Highly recommended.
review originally written for reviewsbyjessewave.com
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