Profoundly good reading

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I know. I only just blogged about a Josh Lanyon book a couple of weeks ago. What can I say? It takes something to move me to blog these days. It takes this.

The Parting Glass is a sequel to In A Dark Wood, a suspense story Lanyon wrote a few years ago which SPOILER ALERT ended on a fairly blue (if hopeful) note, with the MCs agreeing to part while one of them sought to tackle his alcoholism. END OF SPOILER.

The Parting Glass takes place two years later. Tim, now sober, lives in California and Luke is still in New York. In short, things haven’t worked out as the reader might have hoped at the end of In A Dark Wood, and over the course of the next 70 pages, we discover why.

It’s the way Lanyon tells that story: what happened, and why, that is so very satisfying.

I couldn’t believe what Lanyon managed to pack into just 70 pages. This story was so poignant, so incredibly emotional, right from page one, when Tim and Luke run into one another unexpectedly. The immediate, instinctive joy they both exhibit during this reunion lulled me into a false sense of security. I saw that these two had drifted apart, somehow, but the instinctive happiness they felt on seeing one another reassured me that everything would come right very soon.

And that was when their history slowly began to emerge – patiently, painfully – the profoundly sad story of what went before, how two people who loved each other came apart. The facts of that story aren’t particularly startling – it’s a pretty everyday one really – but Lanyon paints it with such rich humanity, such profound understanding and sympathy, that it wrenches at you.

And here’s something kind of interesting: close to the end, I realised I didn’t know what was going to happen. I thought – well, never mind what I thought. The point is that Lanyon really made me feel – no, he made me believe – in Tim’s vision of the impossibility of happiness with Luke.

Oh yes, I believed. And that’s the biggest compliment I can give to any book.

I believed, and I hoped, and I cried. I really, really did cry! And when it was over, I sat there (in bed, for that is where I was) and I turned to my husband and I said,

“That was a really fucking good book.”

And then I sighed, heartfelt like, because I was sad that it was over, and I was happy, and I was satisfied and so – enriched.

This is what reading does, at its very best. It enriches you, in ways that I find – still, after years and years of trying to pin this down – impossible to put into words.

After all, why should it matter to me that these fictional characters went through the mill and came out, older, wiser, better? Why should I care about lessons learned? About redemption and change, the fumbling reach to understanding? What does any of it matter?

It matters because this stuff – this is the stuff of life.

How can close can you take me to it?

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Profoundly good reading

  1. HJ

    I agree with everything you say! I, too, suddenly stopped reading and thought: I don’t know what’s going to happen, how this is going to end. I realised how rare that this – OK, it’s a romance novella so there should be a happy ending of a sort, but it was perfectly feasible for the “happy for now” to take a few different forms. And I’m always nervous when I read about an alcoholic.

    Like you, I really cared what happened to the characters. And I was filled with admiration of Josh Lanyon’s craftsmanship as a writer.

  2. Meena Mehta

    I felt that too..In a few short pages, Mr. Lanyon has created two characters that live fully and deeply. Both stories are somber, thoughtful and really, really moving. Well done, Josh Lanyon.

  3. And this too is one of the joys, this shared “yes, that’s what i thought!”

  4. His stories follow me around long after I’m done reading them.

  5. I loved the Parting Glass too – but Joanna, your Provoked is really fabulous! I have to say, I’m waiting for the sequel with just as much anticipation as I am for Lanyon’s follow-up to Snowball in Hell – which is my favorite of his (I’m all about historicals). I like your other books a lot but there’s so much historical texture to Provoked – fabulous sense of place – as well as really interesting MCs and a plot which catches my sympathies quite seriously. I find the covers a bit OTT! Otherwise, total perfection so far. And I’m damn fussy!

  6. Sara

    This. So much this. I think I need at least a gallon of water to hydrate after the sob fest this book was for me. It was heart breaking and beautiful. So much emotion and I am a mess.

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