Paradise at Main & Elm
Title : Paradise at Main & Elm
Author : Barry Brennessel
Publisher : Wilde City Press (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Contemporary
Length : 72,000 words (e-book)
Published : October 30, 2013
Rating : ★★★★
Adrian Stockwell and Ezra Cherevin both battle the fallout from their broken families. Yet each one’s strategy is as different as each one’s past. Adrian’s childhood was left void by apathy; Ezra’s upended by violence. The written word soon becomes their therapy, their escape. This shared passion for literature is the vehicle that brings them together.
But their journey is filled with personal and familial potholes.
Can these two young men carve out a life together by learning to navigate a sea of challenges? And can the people in their lives do the same?
Adrian Stockwell (the guy who writes short stories) has been observing (and drooling over) Ezra Cherevin (the guy who writes poetry) in their Advanced Fiction Workshop course for a while. So when he runs into the quiet fellow student outside their Professor’s office, he is more than happy when they strike up a conversation together, bonding over their shared dislike of the critiquing classes. Even better is when Ezra suggests they go find something to eat. Ezra takes Adrian to a place special to him, an orchard that Ezra’ retreats to when he needs to get away from things. After a engaging in a range of discussions and just get to know each other, they say goodbye. Adrian is on cloud nine, the evening he spent with Ezra in the orchard has him gushing like a teenage girl to his best friend and ex, Noah. Shortly before this, Adrian had received a call from his mother informing him that he needed to go home to see her urgently, so he had arranged to drive there the following weekend. During the week, Adrian is disappointed when Ezra fails to show up for the critiquing class. As Ezra doesn’t have a phone or internet, Adrian is forced to leave for his mother’s without having seen Ezra since their previous get together.
Ezra hasn’t had an easy life. He’d been through a lot just in the last year with moving to the city after declaring bankruptcy, sorting through his father’s things after he’d passed away, and working as a temporary file clerk through the New York State Job Program. His troubled childhood still impacts his life and he’s dealing with a mental illness and the struggle with his own mind to keep up with his medication. So when he almost misses his bus on a stormy winter morning and ends up in an unfamiliar place, witness to dramatic events, things may be on a different path to what they seem.
Ezra maintains this aura of mystery throughout the book, nothing is ever really spelled out in regards to either his past or his mental illness – the information is given in a disjointed way, bit by bit, much how Ezra’s mind is disjointed. It’s obvious he has some mental issues that he takes medication for – some medical, some as a result of childhood traumas, the main one surrounding his mother’s death. Adrian comes from money on both sides of his family but refuses to have anything to do with it, choosing to pay his own way through college. As far as he’s concerned all it ever gave him was a predominately unhappy childhood spent in a private boarding school and a distant and unaffectionate mother more concerned with appearances than with her son. As a result, they have quite a combative relationship to say the least. “So shipping me off to some private school was supposed to be something so good for me. But you sent me out into a sea of strangers where I had my ass kicked on a daily basis. You never even bothered to check on me, and all this was right after my father was killed in a car crash, and at his funeral you wouldn’t even look at me, and I had to cry on Aunt Constance’s shoulder. And then I’m not even sure why the hell I was crying, because Dad was away from us so much and then when he was home all you two did was argue, and the first seven years of my life I spent with the nanny more than I saw both of you. And this was all supposed to be fixed by sending me to a school full of rich, spoiled bastards and throwing wads of money at me? Money from a bunch of dead relatives who had about as much warmth when they were alive as a marble statue?”
This book is a contemporary fiction, not a romance, although there is a budding romance in it. There’s no happy ending, because their relationship is only at its inception.
The middle did drag a bit for me with the multiple of POVs from the residents of Paradise at Main and Elm. There are a lot of seemingly random POVs from minor characters that do eventually tie into the main plot following Adrian. While they may go towards building the character of Margaret, in particular, and even Adrian to a lesser degree, it did feel like they were bogging down the story. I couldn’t help but think that we were going off on a tangent when all the interesting stuff was back over there. However, I did enjoy the writing and it still held my attention. There’s a reveal at the end that I didn’t see coming, either, and thought it was really well done.
I found this book quite intriguing. It’s a snapshot that illustrates who the characters are, backed up with flashbacks that show what went into making them who they are. The book leans more towards Adrian’s story, leaving a lot of Ezra’s to be deduced from bits of information. While I would have liked to have more of his past a little more spelled out, I guess the idea is that it isn’t meant to be that clear. It leaves him as a little bit of a mystery.
I really liked both Ezra and Adrian. They are two young men, both struggling with issues that have formed them. You can’t help but think that maybe that’ll be easier for them to do together, by the support and understanding they each give to the other. While their interactions together weren’t many, they were very sweet and I really loved them. I also loved Adrian’s letter to himself at the end at it also works really well as a kind of epilogue.
Rated 4 stars by Booksmitten