Sunday, December 22, 2019

Book Review: 'Now I'm Here' by Jim Provenzano

‘Before I die, I want to do something great in this town.’

California author Jim Provenzano joins the great novelists who have written important and lasting novels about men in love, and while he has won prizes for his work it is now, with his publication of NOW I’M HERE that he joins the ranks of the major authors who have had a lasting imprint on our society and the LGBTIQ community. AndrĂ© Aciman, Andrew Holleran, Colm Toibin, Edmund White, Nicholas Sparks, and now Jim Provenzano are important artists whose impact is significant.

NOW I’M HERE is particularly impressive in that the story is about two disparate lads who fall in love in a small town in a difficult time, and the unusual stance of the story is that it is told through the eyes of a common friend who reflects on how the lovers lived and survived.

From the Prologue, ‘Face a man with death, let him come out shining, and you might call his bravery simple. Face a small town boy with fame, love, and death, all before legal drinking age, and you will never call his bravery simple. This is not my story. Lacking a family other than my mother, I abide with ghosts. I have a spare bedroom in my apartment, which Mama insists I should rent out to save money or, inadvertently to find a good man. But that room s for the boxes. The remnants of Joshua and David, two boys who were my friends: boxes I still sometime browse, full of letters converted into blog posts, cassette recording changed to mp3s, photos still to be scanned, to be remembered, to share Joshua’s gift and David’s love and support to the end. And that rickety old upright piano in the dining room sits silently, reminding me.’

This is a love story a related by Eric Gottlund, and the synopsis spells the facts – ‘So begins the voice of Eric Gottlund in Jim Provenzano’s latest novel, Now I’m Here, as he begins his tale of how two boys discovered, lost, and then found each other again in the small town of Serene, Ohio, in the 1970’s and 80’s. It is both pointed and poignant. As the town’s history is slowly erased by fading memories and encroaching suburbia, Eric brings back to life the two friends who showed him what true courage is. Fighting religious intolerance, small-mindedness, “rehabilitation therapy,” the lure of fame, and the heartbreak of AIDS, the two boys grow into men before our eyes. And through their love of each other and rock’n’roll—and the English rock group Queen in particular—Joshua and David breathe life back into their home town, if only for a while.’

Words of admiration and appreciation fail the task of honoring this fine novel. Provenzano knows this period, the highs and lows of two men in love living in a world that simply could not or refused to understand their love. The only entry point into the glow of this novel is by reading it at least once – and probably more. It is a masterwork of the highest order.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.