Life is good for Daniel Garneau: he’s finishing up medical school, and his boyfriend, David, is loving, supportive, and loyal. But Daniel still feels uneasy about his future, missing his childhood friend, Karen, and pining for former lover Marcus, a renowned performance artist: “Marcus evoked this longing in everyone he met… so that it smoldered and sparked.” Also present in the story are Daniel’s triplet brothers, Patrick and Liam. Their parents were killed in a car accident following a night on the town when the boys were 10 years old. But the larger-than-life Garneau spirits still speak to their sons through art and music (there is a magical scene in which the parents’ old jukebox acts as a Greek chorus, a reference to the book’s title).
Author David Kingston Yeh has a way with words in THE B-SIDE OF DANIEL GARNEAU, painting a vivid portrait of Daniel as he transforms from an uncertain medical student to a full-fledged doctor, and from unfocused lover to committed husband. In fact, the best thing Daniel can do is get out of his own way, distance himself from his hometown, and use his medical skills to help those in need. Daniel’s path has been there all along; he just needed the clouds of self-doubt to dissipate. As Karen puts it:
“This is about you thinking you don’t deserve someone like David. Like you never deserved to be team captain. Like you never deserved anyone’s love after your parents went and got themselves killed. You are an amazing and beautiful and awesome human being, Daniel Garneau. And you deserve to be around people who treat you that way.”
Characters are constantly questioning the bonds of love, only to find them sturdier and stronger than expected; and the novel is filled with “odd couples” who redefine love to suit their own happiness. Canada (and Toronto in particular) plays many roles in the story, from a bubbling cauldron of artistic creativity to a concrete prison to a comforting cradle.
There is a lack of conflict that lessens the impact of THE B-SIDE OF DANIEL GARNEAU. Daniel damages his friendship with Karen, and gets tough with a gang of homophobic bullies; there are medical scares for family and friends. The “big bad thing” Daniel fears at the beginning of the novel—the death of his parents—already happened in a prior novel. Yet this book is about how that dramatic event continues to shape the Garneau boys in adulthood, which is still worth reading.
A timeless, well-crafted story about love, family, and friendship that transcends the LGBTQ+ genre, David Kingston Yeh’s THE B-SIDE OF DANIEL GARNEAU is a satisfying reading experience.
~Rob Errera for IndieReader