Reviewed by guest blogger Annie Gage
Louis Flint Ceci, 2009. An intriguing prologue hints at the secrets that are to be revealed in Comfort Me: A heterosexual couple argues in a car stopped on train tracks in tiny Croy, Oklahoma. The girl, Susan, escapes before a train collides it, but the boy, Andy, makes no effort to save himself and dies in what the town assumes was an accident. The town’s judgment when Susan turns out to be pregnant with Andy’s child prompts her to leave town, determined that she and her child will not return.
Fifteen years later, that child, Mally (short for Malachi) returns to Croy to care for his ailing grandfather. Initially taunted by other boys, Mally eventually makes friends with Randy, whose best friend Red resents their friendship, and Joanie, whose family has its own secrets. It is implied that Andy was gay, that Mally is gay, and that football-playing Red is gay.
Ostensibly a story about the comfort and courage that can be found in good friends, Comfort Me is an excellent example of why an intricate plot is not enough to make a good book. I believe the point of view of this book would be called Omniscient, Shifting. While Mally is clearly the central character, the narrator knows how all the characters feel and what they think, and speaks from the perspective of a number of them. This results in a lot of that fiction no-no, telling and not showing. Comfort Me is full of telling. As a result, the characters are flat and it is hard to care about them.
This book has a lot of valuable points to make about the damage that can be wrought by secrets, closets, homophobia and small-mindedness. It tells something beyond a coming out story. However, with its focus on plot and lack of attention to voice, setting, or rich sensory detail, it comes across as a promising early draft rather than a well-polished novel. I’m sorry Mr. Ceci couldn’t have revised his book a few more times and made the rest of it as rich as his plot.