cover image Abide with Me

Abide with Me

E. Lynn Harris. Doubleday, $24.95 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-385-48657-6

This last volume of a trilogy continues to follow the cast of African-American characters that Harris introduced in Invisible Life and Just As I Am. In an elaborate plot that intertwines many different strands--sometimes to confusing effect--the main characters and many secondary players struggle to come to terms with their love lives (especially in terms of sexual preference), their careers and their families. Raymond Tyler Jr., the Seattle lawyer who has finally established a steady relationship with architect Trent Walters, is offered a federal judgeship. During the FBI clearance investigation, Raymond's past is thrown open to scrutiny, and Trent's, too, and Raymond is not sure that their relationship can endure the strain. Nicole Springer, an aspiring singer and actress from Arkansas who once was involved with Raymond, is now married to his best friend, Jared Stovall. Restless after playing ""the little wife"" in Atlanta, she is offered the plum role in a Broadway-bound production of Dreamgirls--and opts for the stage. Basil Henderson, ""the unforgivingly handsome"" bisexual former pro football player who years ago found fleeting peace in bed with Raymond, recounts his raw, mixed-up sexual torment to his analyst. He can't decide if he hates women or truly wants a lasting commitment. Yancey Harrington Braxton, a new addition to the cast and Nicole's understudy in her leading role in Dreamgirls, is an unconvincing mixture of na vet and cunning as she harbors plans to betray the unsuspecting star. Each chapter methodically propels the plight of one character after another, though often the many plot strands do not mesh smoothly. While Harris's prose tends toward the simplistic, he is an excellent chronicler of contemporary urban relationships, especially gay ones. Ultimately, the characters' lives are tidied up in too pat a fashion via a heavenly messenger; in this and other aspects, the novel seems hurried and unfinished. Yet Harris's many fans will undoubtedly welcome this fast-paced, entertaining read. (Mar.)