Genre: Comedy-Drama/LGBTQ Publishers: G.P. Putnam Pub. Date: May 25, 2021
Although “The Guncle” deals with young children losing their mother to cancer as their father checks into rehab for addiction, it’s still a funny, feel-good read. Expect to laugh a lot. While dad gets his act together (he is a good dad), the kids leave their Connecticut home and travel to California to spend the summer with their gay Uncle Patrick, who they call GUP. Patrick is a former TV star who became a shut-in following the death of his partner. At first, he’s a fish out of water with the kids, which makes for some very funny dialogue. But, he rather quickly turns into a combination of Uncle Joey and Uncle Jesse from “Full House.” You get the picture. When he isn’t poking fun at his own vanity, or that of the Hollywood cliques with which he used to run, Patrick is busy answering the kids’ many questions with panache. Between laughs, Rowley manages to make the reader feel genuine grief for the children’s and Patrick’s loss. Without being preachy, he gives us a credible glimpse of the difficulties of being a gay man in a straight world. Of course, the uncle and kids help each other heal. However, you won’t mind the clichés. In this type of tale, you expect the obvious. Think “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman. Predictable, yes, but also a delight. It ends (spoiler) with a return to show business—with the help of his six-year-old nephew, ten-year-old niece, and pinch a of YouTube magic, our hero makes a well-earned comeback.
I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: General Fiction/Literary Fiction Publisher: Random House Pub. Date: June 22, 2021
This character-driven novel is a sweet yet sad story that revolves around Rich who is a husband, father, brother, and son. Rich will die in the novel. We know this from chapter one. The book takes you through his prognosis until his death and his family’s grief afterward. The author’s descriptive writing will bring you into the mindset of a dying man. As well as his family members who are trying to digest his upcoming death.
Most of the characters have quirky yet lovable personalities including Rich’s 11-year-old son, Ollie, who is autistic. Although, Ollie is very hard to live with his parents adore him. Rich is the best with him when dealing with his rituals. Can you imagine being a parent of a child who will not leave the house without all his socks in case his feet get wet? Yet, Ollie is such a tender and frequently confused soul that it is hard not to like him. The author never actually states that Ollie is autistic but it becomes obvious through his words, actions, and rituals. Rich wants to reprimand his parents that it is not Ollie’s fault that their grandson can appear to be disrespectful. He is not. It is just that his brain is wired differently. Unfortunately, when he finally gets the courage to confront his stern and ridged father it is too late. Rich is already gone. The message is obvious.
There is much more in this touching family drama than Rich’s premature death. The author takes on many themes, living with a disability, adult unresolved painful childhood memories, chronic depression, and the stages of grief. Sometimes I thought the author went too heavy on the characters’ exhausting emotions. It became tedious to read. But then again, maybe that was Kline’s point—to put the reader up close and personal to the death of a loved one. However, for me, sweet Ollie is what grabbed my interest and held it throughout the novel. Watching the boy struggle to understand just what is exactly expected of him when the answer is outside his reasoning melted my heart. Without being preachy, the author gives a lesson in patience, understanding, and the meaning of true acceptance.
I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review