Saturday, November 19, 2011

"The End of the Beginning"

Review – “The End of the Beginning” by John Goode

Hugely successful follow up to “Maybe with a Chance of Certainty

Very Highly Recommended

If you haven’t read “Maybe…” – GO READ IT AND COME BACK!  If you have, or don’t mind some minor spoilers, read on…

Brad and Kyle are students at Foster High School in Tyler, Texas.  Brad, the star player of the baseball team, is popular, from a wealthy family, and has the run of the school.  Kyle, from the wrong side of the tracks, is quietly intelligent and invisible, not even registering on the popularity scale.  Somehow, improbably, these two have discovered each other and found common ground.  Both from horribly dysfunctional families, both hiding, both tough on the outside but fragile on the inside, battered on the inside and out.  Both gay.

This fine book picks up where “Maybe with a Chance of Certainty” left off.   Responding to Kyle’s being bullied, Brad has outed himself to his classmates to protect Kyle.  We find Brad the next day, contemplating what he has done, and doing some soul searching.  Did he do the right thing?  Can he take it back?  What will his friends thinks?  His family?  Teammates?  Can it be undone? 

In the course of dealing with all this fear, which is ultimately what this book is about – fear, and will Brad master it – he meets a kindred spirit.  Tyler, an older and hopefully wiser version of Brad, helps him in a weak moment.  He recognizes himself in Brad, and gives him the best advice of his young life - “Trust me, living with a life full of regrets is just about the shittiest way I can think of existing.”  God, where was my Tyler when was 16, 17, 18?

“I promise you the only thing worse than being a rat trapped in a maze is being aware that you were that rat.”  With one simple observation, Brad’s soul is bared to us.

Where “Maybe…” was more about Kyle, this is definitely Brad’s story.  We find out much more about what makes Brad tick, his fears, his hopes, his family, and most importantly, what he wants out of life.  And we see, though his eyes, how very tough it is to be young and gay in a small town.  How love can make us vulnerable when nothing else can touch us, and how fear can grab even the toughest of us by the throat and the heart and shake us until we are weak.  How even knowing the right thing to do can scare us so badly, we will give up on ourselves and the ones we love to protect what is.  Because what might be – no guarantees there, are there?

And that, in turn, makes us take a hard look inside.  And makes me wonder, if I were in Brad’s position, what would I do?  And that, my friends, is the sign of a great writer.  Most anyone who writes can tell a competent tale – it takes an artist to make us stop and think.  To hold up a mirror and invite us to look, think, feel.  And make no mistake, with this book, Mr. Goode is an artist.

“At that moment I knew I’d follow him anywhere he took me.”

I feel the same way, Mr. Goode.  Keep writing like this and take me with you.


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