cover image Let’s Get Back to the Party

Let’s Get Back to the Party

Zak Salih. Algonquin, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-61620-957-5

The shifting landscape for gay men in America animates Salih’s heartfelt debut. In 2015, with gay marriage protected by the Supreme Court, 30-something Virginia high school art teacher Sebastian Mote wouldn’t mind a life of domesticity, but he’s just broken up with his boyfriend of three years. After the suicide of a gay student, Sebastian devotes himself to his students, especially 17-year-old Arthur, whose open sexuality Sebastian secretly envies while he works to make the school more LGBTQ inclusive. Sebastian hopes that luck has finally favored him when, at a wedding, he bumps into Oscar Burnham, a friend from childhood. But Oscar laments the end of a hedonistic lifestyle and complains that every gay man he knows is “a victim of marriage fever now.” The closest Oscar comes to the life he pines for is in his friendship with Sean Stokes, an author in his 60s famous for books that document the abandon of previous decades. There’s a varied cast, though many of the support players come across as generic: an uncle disapproving of him expressing his gay identity, the loving but conflicted mother, and so on. But Sebastian’s and Oscar’s twinned dilemmas add fascinating complexity to the goings on. The party may be changing, but reasons for celebration remain, as evidenced by Salih’s passionate evocation. (Feb.)