“You and me – men like you and me – we don’t always fit with other people. So we make our own lives.”
In a word: Maybe read the thing. Looks like I’ve finally come across a Lisa Henry book that I’m not completely in love with. I know a lot of people gave this good reviews, but I thought it was a bit too bleak for me. The story kept me fully engaged and I basically couldn’t put it down, the writing is great (as usual), but after I finished reading I couldn’t really say that I liked it much. The story isn’t necessarily dark, but Elijah’s story from beginning to end is kind of a downer. His partial deafness gives the townspeople an excuse to look down on him and mistreat him, and his attraction to men is something he feels that he needs to keep secret (this story takes place in 1870 Wyoming, so he really does) and causes him to alienate himself from his adoptive father. He thinks some of those issues may be solved when he catches the eye of saloon owner Harlan Crane, but all that really brings him is a different set of problems. He also gets the attention of cattle rustler Grady Mullins, who gives him affection Elijah doesn’t really know what to do with. I think my biggest problem with this book is that I went into it looking for a story where Elijah gets in over his head with Crane and then Grady saves him and they ride off together into the sunset happily in love. That wasn’t what this story was ever going to be, so I ended up disappointed. Though if you are interested in a bit of a downer story about tortured souls, love, murder, revenge, and morally ambiguous characters in the old west, you’re probably gonna have a good time with this one.
The Summary: (from Goodreads) Wyoming Territory, 1870.
Elijah Carter is afflicted. Most of the townsfolk of South Pass City treat him as a simpleton because he’s deaf, but that’s not his only problem. Something in Elijah runs contrary to nature and to God. Something that Elijah desperately tries to keep hidden.
Harlan Crane, owner of the Empire saloon, knows Elijah for what he is—and for all the ungodly things he wants. But Crane isn’t the only one. Grady Mullins desires Elijah too, but unlike Crane, he refuses to push the kid.
When violence shatters Elijah’s world, he is caught between two very different men and two devastating urges: revenge, and despair. In a boomtown teetering on the edge of a bust, Elijah must face what it means to be a man in control of his own destiny, and choose a course that might end his life . . . or truly begin it for the very first time.