A Review - "Caregiver" by Rick Reed
Intimate, very personal tale
It is very hard to separate myself, my life, my friends and my losses from a book like this. I was in my early 20's when the "gay cancer" started to be talked out, and was 30 in 1991, when this book is set. I remember when my best friend since I was in 6th grade tested positive, dropped out of sight and eventually died alone in Marin County, because he was so afraid we would see him wither and die. I remember my roommate, a kind, gentle man with a beautiful tenor who sang in his church choir had to be hospitalized time after time with pneumocyctis pneumonia and I started seeing KS lesions, and his eyes dulled with cataracts. And how I thanked God every day after my first test was negative, when I had night sweats and sore gums and thought the worst. And how we went to more funerals than any group of young men should ever have to go to. And how we prayed for a cure, or even better medications than AZT, and how slowly some of our prayers were answered. And how we kept on loving and living.
This isn't my story, but in an odd, loving way, it is. Mine, and every man out there who lost a loved one to this cruel and ugly disease.
Dan and his partner Mark move from Chicago to the warm climate of Tampa for a fresh start. Mark's slow slide into addiction forces them to run away from their home and try a new place, a new life, with new friends. While they look for work, Dan decides to become and "AIDS buddy" with a local outreach agency.
Adam is a wisp of a man, blonde and cute, snarly and tough as nails and a riot. He is also positive, moving into the later stages of his infection, and though he presents a good front, scared. His partner, Sullivan, supports him but is scared what the disease might do to him. Miracle of miracles, he has tested negative, and while he loves Adam dearly, he wants to stay that way.
This is really the story of four men, although two are gone in very different ways throughout the book. It is also a very powerful story about how loss can turn into love. How being willing to surrender and let go can bring strength. How a man's heart can love and lose and still keep beating. And how friendships can grow into more. And most of all, how we all have to remember to keep memories alive and keep living through the losses.
Mr. Reed had written a gentle lullaby of a book here, and it sang me to rest with loving memories of lost ones, dear friends, and shared joys. Thanks.