A Review - "Well With My Soul" by Greg Allen
One Beautiful Read
This is a very different review for me, if you have read mine before. Bear with me. I know I am usually a short and sweet kind of reviewer, but this deserves more.
So, I got home from work yesterday, fed the dogs, ate some dinner and settled in for the evening. Since it's a weekend, I like to read uninterrupted. And I am tired and it's raining, and do I want a comfort book, something light that won't make me engage much, or what.
Several days ago, I got an email out of the blue from an author, Greg Allen, telling me he has read some of my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and asking if I would consider reading a work of his. He said he knew I reviewed a lot of m/m books (I am an out gay man), offered to give me a free copy, and asked that I just be honest in my opinion in return. I was intrigued, and said yes. I had this book in my to-read folder, so I decided, what the hell, I will knock this one out and move on to something else. This book involves a gay man, but it not the normal m/m read that I usually end up reviewing.
This book covers approximately 15 years (1976 - 1991) in the lives of Jacob and Noah, two brothers, one gay and one straight, from a small town in Tennessee. As a native Atlantan who grew up in this era (I am 50 now) and in the smaller suburbs of the city, I was intrigued. So I started the book. And ended up devouring it in one gulp, finishing it about 2 this morning. Then I went to Amazon, downloaded "Proud Pants", Mr. Allen's short novella, and read it right then too.
Jacob is a gay man in his 20's, unsettled with his life, drifting from interest to interest. He has a lover, Gary, lives with his mother and younger brother, and wants more out of life than the little town in Tennessee he lives in can offer. Jacob, the handsome one, wants fame and fortune, and wants it now.
Noah is Jacob's younger brother. He is more like his father, happy to go fishing, work with his hands, date women, be a MAN. Not like Jacob, the less masculine bane of his existence, better loved by his mother. Noah and Jacob's father died early on, and Noah misses that connection - to a man, to his mother, and to his older brother he used to adore.
Jacob makes the decision to move to New York City to find his fortune, earned or not. So he and Gary go, leaving Noah to deal with his religious, heartbroken mother.
And so it begins.
After the first chapter, I didn't know what to expect - the writing a little stilted, the character of Jacob not very likable. And then Noah comes into the picture, and he is all straight angry guy, and I think, this is going to be a long read.
And then somewhere I was drawn in to this lovely, amazing, heartbreaking and ultimately beautifully crafted story of two brothers who love and hate and hurt and forgive each other. They each face a decision in their lives that will lead them down different paths, but to the same city, to success in their chosen fields, and to love and heartbreak in their personal lives. As they were together in the beginning, so are they together at the end.
I had to put the book down in certain parts and walk away, as some of the parts struck a little too close to home, but after taking a quick walk outside to cry for a minute or two, I came back to share some time with these two amazing characters.
This book is about choices and love and family and being true to yourself. But it is ultimately about how the love you feel for family can settle your heart and soul no matter how badly you mess things up.
I ended this book with unsettled feelings - anger, sadness, peace, fear, love. And then I remembered this feeling from years ago. Grief. How the ending of a life can jumble up everything until it all settles back down and lets you lay your soul down and rest.
And when I was finished sharing this remarkable story of life, that's what I did. Laid my head and soul down to rest, a little better for having shared the time and tale.
Read this book. Mr. Allen has written his heart out, and you will walk away with a piece of it.