WAR AGAINST THE ANIMALS

Paul Russell, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (358p) ISBN 978-0-312-20935-3

Russell (The Coming Storm, etc.) eloquently explores the divide between gay and straight culture in his latest novel, a thoughtful, provocative study of an attraction that develops between an upscale, retired garden designer who is HIV-positive and a young redneck in a fast-changing upstate New York community. Cameron Barnes is the Manhattan transplant who thinks his love life is over after surviving the barrage of illnesses that come with full-blown AIDS, but Barnes's quiet, idyllic life in Stone Hollow is disrupted when he hires a pair of young brothers, Kyle and Jesse Vanderhof, to fix his dilapidated barn. Initially, Barnes has little contact with the brothers, but a strange attraction slowly develops between the former landscaper and Jesse, who is more sensitive and open-minded than his crude older brother. The backdrop for the romance is a struggle to control the town and its values, filtered through the prism of a mayoral election in which the leader of the powerful Vanderhof clan, Roy, battles a close friend of Cameron's named Max Greenblatt, who represents the interests of the rapidly growing liberal gay community. Russell is a patient, masterful narrator, dexterously alternating scenes featuring Cameron and his gay friends, Jesse grappling with his sexuality and Jesse's controlling brother's scheme to extract money from Cameron. In the hands of a lesser writer, this might have been a clumsy, obvious book, but Russell's compassionate, insightful prose illuminates the differences that help define us under the umbrella of community as well as the sparks that fly when boundaries are violated. Agent, Harvey Klinger. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 05/19/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
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