Last year it was one of the best for Felice Picano on Lambda Literary’s website, this year it’s on the Indie Reviewer’s website for Best LGBTQ fiction. I’m very proud and thank both readers and editors.
I’m starting off 2013 with an amazing review I received yesterday from Indie Reviews. She sent a follow up saying that the novella and stories will be in her Best of 2012 list as well. Thanks for this very thoughtful and lovely review!
The novella, The Narrows, Miles Deep, is the beautifully written and heartrending story of Eric Morris and Roy Bancroft, lovers who parted ways some four years ago when Eric joined his family’s business as a trucker and relocated from Utah to Las Vegas and Roy remained in Salt Lake City to be near the mountains and continue working in a small engineering firm. Eric and Roy have arranged a reunion camping trip in The Narrows Zion National Park in the hopes of rekindling their relationship.
Set primarily in Salt Lake City and southern Utah the story takes place during the 1980s and both begins and ends in the present but unfolds in a non-linear retrospective fashion. The story is divided into four parts tracing the lives of Eric and Roy, their respective childhood and adolescence, their relationships with family and friends, their first meeting and the evolution of their relationship through the first person narration of several secondary characters, among others, Eric’s parents, Roy’s father and Eric’s best friends. Characterisation in further heightened through Roy’s extremely intimate third person introspection and through Eric’s somewhat more muted thoughts.
Great insight into both Eric and Roy is gained through the alternating narratives and voices of friends, family and old lovers, and complemented by the introspection of the main characters as Eric and Roy are explored from all sides. As the story unfolds the circumstances of both characters’ lives are revealed and the layers of the events and life experiences that have shaped them are slowly peeled away.
We learn of Eric’s struggle with his commitment to his Mormon faith in the face of his religion’s blatant homophobia and overall hypocrisy and his inability to reconcile this with who and what he is, as well as his fear of coming out to his family, leading him to abandon the Mormon Church altogether and distance himself from his family. In many ways this struggle defines Eric and influences his life choices and decisions, which ultimately impact his relationship with Roy, as he is hesitant and fearful of fully revealing himself to his lover.
“When Eric came off his mission he moved to Salt Lake City and began working and going to school up there. He came home from serving the church different. After two years, he was still gentle and sweet, but was unsure of himself where most of the other local boys came back with plans, married old girlfriends, started families. Eric just wanted to get away. I didn’t understand, but I suppose the thing to do was just let him be. I wish I had gone slower when I was his age. I didn’t want him to miss a thing.”
We also come to know and understand Roy’s deep emotional pain caused by the loss of his twin brother, abandonment by his mother and his father’s failings as a parent brought on by his own pain at the loss of his son and wife. These losses have had a seminal impact on Roy and his ability for emotional intimacy. Roy prefers his solitude and is initially quite tentative in his relationship with Eric. And yet by his own admission, his meeting of Eric stopped his world on its very axis and in Eric he finds solace from the loneliness he’s felt his entire life.
“Eric’s touch came back to him. Like his mother’s: lightly on the forehead. He began to think of her, to equate her smell with the smells of the canyon. He’d lost the specifics of her years ago so that now she came to him unfocused. The weight of her shape lingered in his mind, however, and he could remember her warmth when she bent over him before he went to sleep, or came up behind him to see what he was doing at the table. It was her warmth that wouldn’t leave him. Years went by and no matter what he did it still clung to him until last night, when it was replaced by Eric’s. He felt a kind of freedom now, a lightness. He brought his hands together as if in prayer. He smiled, and then wept.”
As the story takes place during the 1980s the spectre of HIV/AIDS hovers and looms throughout as an ominous intruder that will impact the lives of the entire cast of characters.
Mr. Schabarum’s writing style is literary and poetic, but at the same time quite elemental in nature cutting to the heart of Eric and Roy and their hopes and fears as they navigate both their lives and relationships without melodrama or cliché. I was completely immersed in this story from the very first paragraph and read it in one sitting. Far from muting the emotional magnitude and impact of their story, the unassuming and introspective qualities of Mr. Schabarum’s writing achieve the opposite and provide for an extremely powerful reading experience.
The Narrows, Miles Deep is a multi-layered story with several emerging themes. As much as it is a story about the Eric and Roy’s journey and relationship, it is also a story that interweaves such themes as coming out and coming of age, homophobia, religion, parenting and family relationships, life choices, HIV/AIDS, loss and letting go. Ultimately, the overarching theme of this story is about the fragility of love. I truly loved this story and despite its tragic ending, found much beauty in the sadness of Eric and Roy’s journey. While unrelated, the three accompanying short stories are equally well written and carry with them similar themes as the novella.
I am excited at the discovery of Mr. Schabarum’s writing and look forward to reading his debut novel The Palisades. I highly recommend The Narrows, Miles Deep without any hesitation.
The Narrows, Miles Deep by Tom Schabarum is available at Amazon.
A great post of why Matt reads and writes about books – all kinds of books. He’s terrific, and I wish I could go with him to Darlington Hall. Armchair BEA Personal Introduction.
The review that started it all for me and the very first one I’ve ever had. Thanks, Matt!
” If this hadn’t come up we’d still be together, still working things out as we got used to each other. A year isn’t enough time to learn about someone—even ten years. Or maybe you can never really know whom it is you decide to share your life with. Maybe you just go through it and bend around the obstacles together and hope that one or the other doesn’t veer off into some unforeseen territory. ” [26:273]
What is meant to be will always find its way. The Palisades tells the story of how a family finds its way back to love. Nicholas has grown up with his father, stepmother, and brother Peter in southern California. After college he returns to Big Sur, where he last saw his mother, to claim a part of his life that was locked in the past. He used to think about her…
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Host TK McEachin mentioned yesterday that my novel AIRSTREAMING brought to mind the work of John Steinbeck, which was quite a nice comparison. She said, “Your writing is reminiscent of the times I read Steinbeck… really strong characters… and it’s uniquely American.” She also went on to say, “You’ve done a fantastic job of capturing one aspect of the American experience.” and, “I think AIRSTREAMING is important.”
If you’d like to hear an excerpt from the novel and hear our discussion which ranged from self-publishing to great authors and why Kansas City, you can follow this link here:
My thanks to TK McEachin for giving a great interview and embracing the novel as she did. It was a fun experience!
Word Incident hit 2,000 views today! Thanks to all who’ve taken a look. It took me awhile to figure out how to do things with WordPress, but it’s moving along pretty well at this point. Check it out, follow it, and like it on FB for literary news, music, photography and artistic adventures!
The Narrows, Miles Deep was listed by Felice Picano as one of Lambda Literary Foundations Best Books of 2011. My thanks to Mr. Picano for his support of this book that is an allegorical tale of the burgeoning AIDS epidemic in Utah and Las Vegas through the eyes of friends, lovers and family of the two men whose lives are impacted. This book also contains 3 stories: My Kid in Footlights, The Road to Alaska, and Follow Me Through. See LLF’s blog post below: