Thirty-eight year old Jonny Ordell is hopelessly in love with his friend Mark Dorsett. There’s just one small problem: Mark Dorsett is insane.
Not a charming, cute, surprisingly insightful kind of insane. The kind of mental illness that rips apart Jonny’s insides and turns otherwise good people into villains. It isn’t Mark’s fault. It’s not like he asked to be sick. At the same time Mark’s erratic behavior and his refusal to get help is destroying everything in his path, including Jonny.
Now Jonny must decide: does he stand by his man and hope loyalty and love are enough to make Mark realize the error of his ways? Or does he abandon Mark to his illness and save himself? Neither choice offers much hope of happiness. As their affair continues Jonny must confront the possibility that his love is not healing Mark, it may actually be making him worse.
First off, this is not a romance. It's very important that any potential reader knows that before opening this book, so expectations are clearly set from the start.
But it's sort of a romance, because while our unreliable narrator, the guy who writes an advice column as "Fairy Gaymother", doesn't get a HEA, the book does end on a hopeful note.
What's happening until then though - that's why I want you to read it.
It's not a romance.
But it is.
Isa K. delivers with blunt frankness, and a complete lack of fear, a character study of two men, one who suffers from an unspecified but rather obvious mental illness, and one who thinks that his love and perseverance can save the other. Neither is faithful in body, and if books with cheaters aren't your thing, I want you to read this anyway.
See, it's not cheating, to me, if the MCs aren't in a committed relationship. And for the length of this book, they aren't. Even if Jonny wishes it wasn't so. They aren't. So, if that's not your thing either, I want you to read this anyway.
I have no personal (to my knowledge) experience with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), nor have I directly been in a relationship with someone who's bipolar, but it is very clear from this book that a relationship like that is no cakewalk. And while there may be chemical help available, and psychotherapy, both people in the relationship need help.
What stood out for me is that unless someone KNOWS the other person is suffering from this disorder, the actions of the sufferer can easily be mistaken for mood swings, which then confounds the friends and leads to whispers and ultimately disregard and cruelties in word and action. It's one of those invisible illnesses, one that we don't like to talk about, and one that most of us surely don't even begin to comprehend.
The hardest part, the biggest lesson, in this book is the one that Jonny has to learn, no matter how hard he fights to avoid it. It's only when he forces himself to let go of Mark that Mark has the chance to work on himself. For a lot of the book, we see Jonny retreat after a particularly cruel action by Mark, only to have Mark pursue Jonny again, until Jonny relents and the cycle begins anew.
Which brings me to the part about hope I mentioned earlier. The love story between Mark and Jonny, as difficult and painful as it is for them both (and though we only see Jonny's POV, there is sufficient evidence that Mark is also affected just the same), is actually quite profound and hits hard once you grasp it. Because not only does Jonny love Mark - Mark also loves Jonny.
Sometimes love just isn't enough.
The writing is superb. Clean and crisp, without any purplish language, and direct and unapologetic. The author takes no prisoner on the journey for Jonny and Mark, but she sure as hell made me care about her characters. Not only for the long-suffering Jonny, but also for Mark.
This is not a romance.
But it is.
And I'll say it again - if none of the things I've talked about in my review are your thing, I want you to read this anyway. Keep an open mind, and read this for what it is - a story that could be cut from real life. Where not everything is coming up roses, and where people are flawed and needlessly cruel, making mistakes left and right, and somehow still live to tell the tale, profoundly changed.
** I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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