Toby Sligh has one ambitionto come out in spectacular fashion by dancing with his boyfriend at his Catholic high school Prom. Unfortunately, revealing the truth about his sexuality is the least of his worries. His mother has inexplicably moved out; his father is drowning his sorrows in beer; his best friend, a crack dealer pursued by both the law and the mob, has asked him to hide his stash; and Ian, his boyfriend, is becoming increasingly more aloof. In the midst of this turmoil, Toby meets Father Scarcross, a mysterious priest suffering with AIDS who tells him to search for the truth about life, and about himself.
In a world where nothing is what it seems, and everyone has a past to conceal, Toby makes a dizzying high-speed journey through the playgrounds and hospitals, bedrooms and classrooms, backseats and back alleys of his shadow existencecoping with drug deals, blackmail, bomb threats, AIDS, death, and betrayed love. The stunning finale draws together the tangled threads of his life in a masterful mix of pathos, irreverent humor, and shocking revelations.
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Narrated by a gay Catholic high-school senior who refers to Dostoyevski as "my main man," Vilmure's second work (after Life in the Land of the Living) is animated by a ferocious intelligence. But it also suffers from a self-consciousness of which only a part can be attributed to Toby Sligh, the precocious, awkward protagonist. The rest falls on Vilmure, who occasionally slips from writing about adolescence into writing like an adolescent. In a colorfully rendered Tampa, Fla., Toby picks his way through an emotional minefield in which he knows few truths. His mother has moved out on his father without giving a reason. His best friend, Juice, seems to be a thriving drug dealer who speaks black street patois and sends notes in Latin. When Toby sees his father playing pickup basketball with a man who may be Juice's drug competitor, the various worlds in which Toby moves begin to bleed into each other. At the request of his lover, Ian Lamb, Toby is tending Elijah Scarcross, a Jesuit priest dying of AIDS who asks Toby to be his voice of truth. This is hard on Toby, who's caught up in a web of lies. Desperate for a truthful gesture, Toby fixates on the notion of dancing at the prom with Ian, a one-eyed swimmer whose past is replete with secrets. Surprisingly, Vilmure pulls this overcrowded life together neatly at the end, so that Toby confronts the truth of his parents' relationship, learns about the ties between Ian and Father Scarcross and uncovers the true nature of Juice. The final waltz at the prom provides a scene so full of irreverence and pathos that one can forgive the trespasses of a dozen frantic, sophomoric scenes.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Toby Sligh's senior year at a Jesuit high school is . . . intriguing. He is in a love affair with class heartthrob Ian Lamb. Within a few months, he learns his mother was in love with both the man who has acted as his father and that man's brother (she's unsure which man fathered Toby), becomes entangled with a drug-dealing friend with ties to the Mob, and decides to waltz with Ian at the senior prom (which ends up on CNN!). Vilmure's light, humorous novel is effective. Vilmure makes such lines as "girls fall in love like guys get erections: all the time, constantly, for everything they see" both advance the plot and bring needed relief to a tense situation. When he tries to be deep, though, as when he freights things like the subject of the title, a paper bag, Ian's artificial eye, and a rose with symbolism, the novel strains to be more than its simple plotline can sustain. Still, where gay fiction is popular, it will be. Charles Harmon
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Book Description Harpercollins, 1996. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0060976942