Crack The Dark Sky Wide Open : John & Jackie
Title : John & Jackie
Anthology : Crack the Dark Sky Wide Open
Author : T.J. Klune
Publisher : The Crack Crew (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Romance
Length : 148 pages total (e-book)
Published : May 16, 2013
Of humanity there are darker tales. Stories that take some squinting to see through. Unconventional stories. Tales that threaten to break the heart by cruel twists of fate, the dogs of war, or demons that are all too real; whether they be of unrequited love or a karmic slap in the face. Happy endings take a time in coming, and some never arrive. But through all the darkness there is light, a glimmer of hope and wonder…if one has the will to see it ….
John and Jack first laid eyes on each other when they were twelve years old. Now, seventy-one years later, Jack prepares to give his beloved husband the ultimate gift. Before he does, they’ll relive five key moments from their younger lives together over the course of a single afternoon. From a first meeting and a first kiss, to the violence of an abusive father and the heartache of growing up, these moments have defined who they have become. As sunset approaches, John will show the depths of his love for the one man who has made him whole: his Jackie. In the end, they’ll learn there is no force more powerful than their devotion to one another.
John and Jackie, told from the POV of Jack, is a love story encompassing decades, which is explored via five flashbacks – key moments in the lives of John Kemp and Jack Ford. The book starts out in the present, where eighty-three year old John is recording a video with his husband, Jackie (also eighty-three), manning the camera. It becomes immediately obvious that John is seriously ill and has extracted a promise from his loving husband. But before that promise can be fulfilled with the coming sunset, there’s a little time left to reflect on the long and fully-lived partnership of these two men. And, wow, is their story brought to life! Second page in and I was already tearing up! Not because the story was despondent and full of sadness, but because that’s how well TJ Klune can paint a picture with words. How easily he captures a relationship between two men well into their winter years – one of them at the end of his life – with all of their love for, and history with, each other. How beautifully he can show all of that to the reader within a couple of pages worth of words. “Please, he said. I push through the fear and dig deep. Because when John says please, I’ll move Heaven and earth to get him what he asks for.” From the very first time John says please to the very last, Jackie is helpless to resist John when he asks for what he needs.
“…never thought we’d get to be in our eighties–eighty-three to be exact. We’ve had a good life. A long life. A life filled with joy and laughter. Tears and sorrow. Celebration, horror, happiness, and sadness.”
The story shifts from present to past tense, making it very clear as to whether we are in the present or a flashback. The first flashback takes the reader back to a twelve year old Jack who, at twelve, wasn’t popular with his school mates. He was picked on, but scrappy and refused to be cowed. John is the new kid in class. A loner by nature, a trait that was exacerbated by his father’s drunken beatings of him, he had a temper when riled. But right from the start he saw within Jack a balancing personality for his own. John is determined to become Jackie’s friend, Jack offers John half of his sandwich and a firm friendship is formed.
“You’re awfully strange. You know that, right?” I didn’t look away. For the first time in a very long time, I was intrigued. He smiled again. “Yeah, Jackie, I know.”
The second milestone of their relationship revolves around the first time, at the ages of fifteen, that they kiss. I love this. The description of their first kiss. Or more accurately, their second (their first being a chaste pressing of lips). It wasn’t all unrealistically perfect. It was awkward, passionate, messy and wonderful. Guess it was perfect after all.
“He and I knew then that things would never be the same. They’d be better.”
Some of John and Jackie’s key life moments were joyous, some of them dark. All of them were filled with the deep and abiding love they had for each other at every stage. When they’re sixteen, they are tested as to just what they are willing to do for the other. For John, Jackie is his home. The only one he ever really had, and the only one he ever needed. In the end he was eighty-three, but it was only the last seventy-one that counted, that had any meaning to him.
“Sunset’s gettin’ closer, Jackie.”
At eighteen, John and Jackie find themselves at two momentous landmarks in their relationship. Their first big fight and first time they have sex. It’s also the time when Jackie truly realises and understands that all he really needs is John, that he doesn’t want any other. Jackie has had an easier time, socially, in his later high school years and has made some friends outside of John. He is a people person and, although neither his love or his need for John have diminished, he realises that he needs more social interaction than John does. It’s those fundamental differences in their natures that lead to that first major relationship hurdle to be overcome.
“And there, by the lake, under the stars in the sky, John Kemp kissed me deeply, a promise made, one that I intended to keep for the rest of my days.”
The fifth flashback shows them established as a couple. They are thirty and are building a life with each other. A place is found and a commitment made, symbols of a promise. Forever.
“One thing I’ve learned about my life with John is that there’s nothing I’ve been able to hide from him. It’s one of those secrets of long-term couples, able to read each other’s little tics, their tells, their every move, and their thoughts. Even if it wasn’t splayed across my face, he’d know what I was thinking because he knows me.”
I loved this couple. I loved them in their teens. I loved them in their thirties. I loved them at the beginning, and I loved them at the end. I loved the writing. I loved how the author made me cry. Ugly hiccoughing, snotty, sobbing cry. Even as I type up this review, I find myself tearing up again. I loved how he could make me laugh out loud and sigh like it was me that was in love. Their story, told through those five snapshots, those wonderful glimpses into who they were, was amazing. Beautiful, painful, poignant, joyful, heartbreaking, hopeful. Godammit! I don’t care if they were eighty odd years old and had had a long and wonderful life together, my heart was breaking. It was shattering into tiny little pieces for them. Now excuse me while I go restock up on tissues and take something to unclog my nose…
Rated 5 stars by BookSmitten