Friday, July 17, 2015

Book Review: The Art of the Heart by Dan Skinner

The Art of the HeartBlurb:
 The heartland of America in 1965 feels like the end of the road for seventeen-year-old Zac Weston. After all, there’s nowhere to go when you’re shy, gay, and a virgin. A natural artist, inspiration strikes in the form of neighbor boy Rory, and Zac’s fantasies spill onto the pages of his notebook. When Zac’s secret is discovered, it might take more than wishes to magically make his world right.

Todd’s rating:

This was such a well-written short novella, full of loneliness and longing.

I normally avoid books that aren't set in present time, mainly because of the utter lack of acceptance, or even a vague sense of tolerance, which simply didn't exist until quite recently.

The story is set in 1965 and, as Zac's character witnesses, it was definitely not a time to revel in (or reveal) any differences from the rest of the "normal" people in small Missouri farming communities.

So the sad, shy and lonely boy retreats into a world of his own making, with his attentions set firmly, and quietly, on a slightly-older farm boy neighbor.

Rory is the type of boy that Zac idealizes as nothing short of perfection, so over the years Zac's unrequited love of the young man grows each time their paths cross.

And through the years, Zac uses his talent for drawing, along with his seemingly photographic memory, to enshrine Rory in his sketchpad, where Zac more or less lives when not working on the family farm.

I absolutely loved how, after accidentally discovering that he is the subject of Zac's very lifelike, sometimes homoerotic, artistic endeavors, Rory doesn't freak out on the horrified younger man. Instead, he offers Zac kind words and praise for his drawings.

And how at the end of the book, the (real or imagined?) interaction between the two boys gives Zac the courage to finally overcome the previously-unchallenged thought that he would grow old on the farm, having only ever known sadness and an unfulfilled desire to be who he truly is.

This book contains no happily ever after; however, what the story does provide is a ray of hope at its conclusion.

Not the conventional type of hope that most romance stories (which this was definitely not) have, but the type of hope needed to allow a person to dream of more. Need more. Accept nothing less than 'more.'

So 4.5 *welcome-to-your-OWN-flavor-of-normal* stars for this heart-felt and satisfying short read.

This was my copy of the book and was not provided by the publisher.
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