I Loved You More

Tom Spanbauer. Hawthorne Books (hawthornebooks.com), $18.95 trade paper (468p) ISBN 978-0-9860007-8-2
Spanbauer's excellent follow-up to 2006's Now is the Hour chronicles the friendships and love affairs of protagonist Ben Grunewald, a gay novelist fraught with chronic anxiety and living with AIDS. Ben's anxiety is born from a mix of dealing with his Catholic upbringing, his homophobic father, and his depressed mother in small-town Idaho. He finds a haven in writing and eventually makes a home for himself on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where he meets Hank Christian in a writing workshop. In admiring prose reminiscent of Kerouac deifying Cassidy, Ben describes his reverence for Hank, a straight man who also takes a shine to him. They develop a friendship that starts in the ‘80s and withstands years of distance, only to come to a halt when Hank falls for Ben's friend Ruth Dearden. A former writing student, smitten Ruth becomes Ben's caretaker and enters into a complicated physical and emotional relationship with him once Ben becomes too sick to care for himself. Spanbauer creates wonderful characters here, and conveys the gratitude, affection, and resentment that ebbs and flows among them. Spanbauer relays from the start that Hank succumbs to cancer before he and Ben can make up the rift that springs from Ben's jealousy, so once the destruction unfolds in the final act, it happens at a riveting, fast pace. By turns poignant and funny, Spanbauer's story rings true at every turn. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/05/2014
Release date: 04/01/2014
Genre: Fiction
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