Wise Ink

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By Russell Ricard

IR Rating:
THE TRUTH ABOUT GOODBYE, Russell Ricard’s novel about a gay man grieving over the loss of his husband’s death, pulls the reader of all sexual persuasions in with its witty dialogue, light touch, and refusal to propagandize.
IR Approved
In THE TRUTH ABOUT GOODBYE, an aging chorus boy named Sebastian Hart is still grief-stricken a year after his husband’s death.

In THE TRUTH ABOUT GOODBYE, an aging chorus boy named Sebastian Hart is still grief-stricken a year after his husband’s death.  Much of it stems from Hart starting the argument that night—over a much-younger former love of the husband Frank who still wants Hart’s husband—that drove Frank out of the house and into a fatal automobile accident.

One of the refreshing things about this novel is its complex look at what today is called “moving on.”   As difficult as this can be, and on this matter Ricard writes beautifully, there is also considerable difficulty on the part of the soon-to-be-departed.  No matter how seemingly selfless the gesture, there undoubtedly lurks the painful knowledge of those on their deathbeds that they are agreeing to sharing their loved one with another;  and believing in the afterlife makes this even more painful because the deceased will see what they agreed to.  It’s made even worse if the deceased is roasting in “hell” while their loved one is enjoying a new happy relationship.

George Orwell, who suffered his own loss when his wife unexpectedly died from anesthesia during a routine operation, caught this “selfishness” best when reviewing a book by Gandhi, up to that time the foremost proponent of not singling out any person for love but instead loving everyone in theory:

…if one is love… humanity as a whole, one cannot give one’s preference to any individual person…{this} marks the point at which the humanistic and the religious attitudes cease to be reconcilable .  To an ordinary human being, love means nothing if it does not mean loving some people more than others.”

Orwell added of not attaching oneself to a particular human being, that “the main motive for ‘non-attachment’ is a desire to escape from the pain of living.”

Without a doubt Sebastian is in pain and the selfishness Orwell speaks of is voiced by Frank as he materializes before Sebastian in the form of a cat; through this feline “vessel” Frank demands that Sebastian not move on.  At first glance, this plot device is the height of silliness that mars an otherwise effective book.  But in Ricard’s hands, it works.  Even his choice of animals for Frank’s spirit is spot-on.  Whatever one’s preference for cats, they are renowned for being the most selfish of animals, and unlike dogs, the “owner” has to work even harder for feline love.

Ricard’s background as a performer in musicals serves him well, as Sebastian seeks the familiar path of coping by focusing on work.  Like football, dancing is ageist; and what may be considered young in any other profession is ancient in the music theater rat race.  The forty-year-old Sebastian is long past the shelf life for a dancer, and seeks to be, not entirely for this reason, a choreographer.  Sebastian’s ambition/coping mechanism does not keep him sexually loyal to Frank for very long, as he becomes attracted to a student in his tap-dancing class.

Russel Ricard has written an impressive debut novel and his commentary on gay rights and marriage isn’t angry or resentful, but lightly touched on. THE TRUTH ABOUT GOODBYE explores the universal themes of loss and grief, which should resonate with all readers, no matter their sexual orientation.

~Ron Capshaw for IndieReader      


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