Simon Powell’s conservative upbringing and critical father drove him first to seek solace in the Unification Church and then in Hollywood, but he found only disillusionment, betrayal, and drug addiction. Now, after his father’s death, he has returned home with his boyfriend Thad, a wiser and soberer adult, to go to college, rediscover his art, and rebuild his life–but ghosts from his past threaten everything he’s trying to reclaim.
SIMON’S MANSION is a love story, mystery, and slice-of-life biography all in one. It’s the third in a series, following Simple Simon and Simon Says, and is best read after those two books, but can certainly be read as a standalone book without too much confusion. There’s plenty of backstory in the first few chapters to explain what has gone before–perhaps a bit too much for those readers already familiar with the story line, who may wish to skim over the flashbacks and take up where the previous stories left off. Simon is a sympathetic and likable hero, trying to deal with the mistakes of his past and make a better future for himself and Thad, in a world that still isn’t quite ready to accept him or their relationship as they are.
The loving support of Simon’s mother Vivian makes her a warm, generous presence in the book, giving him the encouragement he needs to rediscover the person he was always meant to be, and offering a welcoming hand to Thad as well, despite the rejection of much of their family. The plot gently meanders about for most of the book, from Simon’s past to his hopes for the future, as he gets his feet under himself. A lot of the struggle in this book is internal, with Simon wrestling with inner demons and trying to figure out his place in the world, and there are whole chapters where not much actually happens on the outside.
SIMON’S MANSION is by no means devoid of events, mind you–there are certainly moments of high action and drama, moments that catch and wrench the reader’s heart, and moments of wry, affectionate humor to liven things up. Still, it’s a book for the philosopher, the reader interested in another perspective on human life and the human condition, rather than an adrenaline junkie or adventure-seeker. There are some threads left hanging at the end, which actually feels quite natural and realistic– life doesn’t tidy up endings the way that fiction tends to, and this feels more like a real-life biography than a fictional tale–and it also leaves plenty of room for another book in the series, if the author feels so inclined.
SIMON’S MANSION is a thoughtful and philosophical book about coming to terms with one’s past, facing the consequences of past misdeeds and failures, and figuring out how to move forward in a healthy and creative way.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader