Poe’s hopeful, accomplished follow-up novel to his darker debut, Simon Says, reunites readers with protagonist Simon Powell, a man haunted by his upbringing in 1960s Arkansas and dealing with an internal struggle caused by his burgeoning homosexuality. The first volume found Powell restless and self-destructive, seeking solace in time spent with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, abusing drugs and alcohol, and behaving recklessly. Here, Poe delves deeper into Powell’s past, when his protagonist was safely ensconced in a rehabilitation program and making great progress toward healing and recovery via writing his life’s story, a process that gives much of the narrative its drive. Powell’s memories of a childhood spent with his mother, his Aunt Opal, and his grandmother are touching, while scenes of complicated friendships at school and his battles with substance abuse are as difficult to read in this volume as in the author’s debut. These rough patches in Powell’s life are made palatable by his mother’s eventual and compassionate acceptance of the fact that he’s gay. Although the novel is overly long and frequently expository, Poe’s narrative moves quickly and smoothly, and fills in the blanks left in Simon Says. These first novels by Poe will leave his readership wondering—and waiting for—what he comes up with next.
Reviewed on 11/29/2013 |
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