This is a beautiful new novel from the author of "Dancer From the Dance." A unique and moving exploration of grief and loss set in a Washington brought to life by the spectacular prose of its author. Reeling from the recent death of his invalid mother, a worn, jaded professor comes to Washington to recuperate from his loss. What he finds there - in his repressed, lonely landlord, in the city's mood and architecture and in the letters of Mary Todd Lincoln - shows him new, poignant truths about America, yearning, loneliness and mourning itself.
Stonewall Award Winner 2007
"An understated, eloquent novel by Holleran (Dancer from the Dance) captures the pain of a generation of gay men who have survived the AIDS epidemic and reached middle age yearning for fidelity, tenderness and intimacy. The unnamed, silver-haired narrator has just relocated from Florida, where he cared for his recently deceased mother for the last 12 years, to Washington, D.C., to "start life over" and teach a college seminar on literature and AIDS. He rents a room in a townhouse near Dupont Circle, his solitude deepened by his awareness that he and his gay, celibate landlord, a "homosexual emeritus," form only a semblance of a household. The narrator spends his days exploring the streets of the capital and his nights engrossed in the letters of Mary Todd Lincoln, who held onto her grief and guilt at her husband's death much like the narrator hordes his guilt for never having come out of the closet to his mother—and for having survived the 1980s and '90s. Holleran makes his coiled reticence speak volumes on attachment, aging, sex and love in small scenes as compelling as they are heartbreaking. Visiting with his friend Frank, whose willful pragmatism throws the narrator's mourning in sharp relief, prove especially revealing. Frank manages to have a steady boyfriend, while for the narrator, his landlord and most of their friends, love and partnership seem impossibly intimate. Until its terse, piercing conclusion, Holleran's elegiac narrative possesses its power in the unsaid."
New York Times Book Review
"Elegant . . . Holleran's eloquence lures readers into the rich current of his thoughts . . . Concise and beautiful . . ."
Washington Post Book World
"This slender volume conjures up a rich and deeply seductive, satisfying world, one that welcomes readers gay, straight, single, coupled or otherwise. . . . Holleran's moving novel is mostly about human resilience and hope; our enduring need to love, despite our losses. The beautiful life is brief: all the more reason to embrace it."
"In a novella that's not just post-AIDS but virtually post-sex, Holleran exquisitely captures the many nuances of loss. A-"
"A haunting, exquisite novel about the nature of loss, grief and the illusion of intimacy. The unnamed protagonist, having taken care of his failing mother for some 12 years, is devastated by her death. When a friend offers a one-semester teaching gig in Washington, D.C., and a lead on a room rental, the professor jumps at the deal. So begins Holleran's spare story: "The house that I lived in that winter in Washington had been a rooming house with fourteen rooms, rented out mostly to addicts, when my landlord bought it in 1974." On the nightstand is a collection of Mary Todd Lincoln's letters; the widow's words become a reference for everything the professor notices as he wanders the nation's capital. Here is her dress in the Smithsonian Institution; here is where her husband was assassinated; here the atmosphere is similar to one of the First Lady's soirees. The author slowly discloses his characters' makeup: The professor holds on to his anguish as a form of tribute ("Grief is what you have after someone you love dies. It's the only thing left of that person"). His landlord-reserved, formal and middle-aged-has seen hundreds of his friends die in the AIDS epidemic; in the face of such sorrow the landlord simply retreats. ("My landlord was, so far as I could tell, like many gay men of a certain age, celibate-because of AIDS, or an inability to attract the partners they wanted, or simply diminishing interest.") Even Biscuit, the landlord's dog, plays a subtle role in Holleran's narrative: The professor is relieved to be able to feel sorry for something worse off than himself. Holleran's slender novel is a work of art defying easy synopsis; the author's skill resides-as does much of theplot-in the small details. A quiet story well told."