Breakfast with Scot

Michael Downing, Author Counterpoint LLC $24 (224p) ISBN 978-1-58243-027-0

Two gay men--one a New Age chiropractor, the other an editor at an ultra-hip Italian art magazine--live happily together in Cambridge, not too far from Harvard. Sam (the chiropractor) learns that his brother's ex-girlfriend has suddenly died and named Sam legal guardian of her 11-year-old son, Scot. What follows is a wry look at how Sam and Ed adjust to surrogate parenthood, which they had politely, drunkenly and hypothetically agreed to years before. When Scot arrives at their home, these two generous, good-hearted men discover that they have a prepubescent Quentin Crisp on their hands. Scot's flamboyant, androgynous flair makes for some school yard and neighborhood crises, but the boy's innate sweetness and open-mindedness endear him to several youngsters and most adults. The action centers around the adjustments everyone is forced to make during the first semester of Scot's fifth grade at Parker Elementary School, where Scot learns that he must stop wearing pantyhose, eyeliner and perfume. Narrated by Ed, both the action and the asides are loaded with wit and emotion. By the time Sam's brother, Billy, unexpectedly returns from South America, readers know that Scot, Sam and Ed are a real family, and that the two men, patiently immersed in the joys and pains of parenting, are the boy's heroes. The prose in Downing's (Perfect Agreement) fourth novel is melodious and lucid. This heartwarming tale nobly defines and describes a potent, realistic new configuration of contemporary American family values. (Nov.)