“On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.” ― Henry David Thoreau
Title: Favorite Son
Author: Will Freshwater
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 204 Pages
Rating: 4 Stars
Blurb: Born into a blue-collar family, John Wells beat the odds and came out a winner. As chief of staff to Patrick Donovan, a US senator and aspiring presidential candidate, he enjoys all the power and privilege of a DC insider. But while riding high on a wave of success, he’s blindsided by a series of betrayals from the people he trusts the most. In the space of a single day, John’s perfect life unexpectedly unravels when his career falters and his marriage implodes. Following a final, devastating blow, John assumes a new identity as “Peter” and flees to Provincetown, where a tight-knit community of eclectic characters slowly transforms him.
Peter finds himself drawn to Danny Cavanaugh, an enigmatic carpenter who is struggling to come to terms with his own troubled past. As they work together to renovate a local landmark, the two men forge an unlikely friendship that blossoms into love and becomes the foundation for a new life they hope to build together. But when a reversal of fortune pulls John back to DC, the treacherous world of politics he thought he’d left behind threatens to destroy his chance at true happiness.
Review: Favorite Son is the debut novel from Will Freshwater. There was a comment made in the book, maybe a negative comment depending on how one chooses to interpret it, about most M4M fiction being written by housewives using gender neutral initials as names. I got the feeling that this is something that may bother Mr. Freshwater a bit. I respect his honesty, but more than that, I respect his courage in trying to effect change within the genre if the status quo bothers him. It is true that the large majority of gay fiction is written by women, and mostly for women. But Mr. Freshwater took the book by the cover and decided to write his own book from his own perspective, that of a gay man. It is believable, honest, insightful and enjoyable. Even if he steps quietly onto a small soapbox several times within its pages, I understand his feelings on this matter and give him props for being gentle with his opinions. What straight woman would be pleased if the majority of hetero romances were written by men who purported to be able to understand how we think and feel? I get it, I really do. I wish there were more gay men writing fiction about gay men, especially fiction of this caliber.
John Peter Wells is a high-powered Chief of Staff for a long-serving Senator in Washington, DC. His work has stopped being what he does and become what he is. It has cost him every close relationship in his life. In one day, John loses everything. His job, husband, home and best friend. He is at a loss. He hasn’t a clue where to go or what to do. He has no one to turn to. Seeing a sign for the ferry to Provincetown, he makes a hasty decision to pick up the overnight bag he has with him and get on the ferry.
In Provincetown, he becomes Peter, a name that holds a lot of significance in his life. He rents a small cottage, loses all contact with the outside world. Buries his head in the sand. Peter makes a group of friends who are a rag-tag bunch, all of whom have suffered great loss in their lives. He even gets a job of sorts. Volunteering to help a local man, Daniel Cavanaugh, restore an old chapel off the beaten path.
Danny is quiet about his life before Peter entered it. It is clear he has lost much and is in pain as well. They work together for months, becoming friends, all while Danny insists he is straight. Once he opens up to Peter about his past losses and his reason for not admitting his homosexuality to Peter, they begin a loving relationship with bright hope for the future.
Then Washington comes calling. James is needed back immediately to help the Senator. James goes under duress without saying goodbye to anyone but Danny, and the explanation he offers Danny is paltry. When he returns to DC, at first it is heady to be back in a position of power, but the bloom quickly falls off the rose and he misses Provincetown, his friends and Danny.
I spent a good portion of this book on the verge of tears. There is so much loss and sadness. The citizens of the little corner of Provincetown that Peter inhabits are happy, loving and close-knit. They have all suffered so much, but they have formed a bond and recognize in Peter his need to be a part of them. The cast of supporting characters is priceless. Even the dog, his name so significant, was an important part of Peter’s development. Favorite Son wouldn’t have been nearly as good a book without them.
I loved how Mr. Freshwater described, from Peter’s point of view, what James would do in a situation, but Peter is going to do it this way because James couldn’t fake that (fill in the blank) one more time. We got a glimpse inside the mind of James, the workaholic, through Peter, the relaxed, fun side of the same man. Almost as if Peter was telling us the truth about James that James wouldn’t admit.
The relationship Peter and Danny developed was so sweet. It was a friendship for months before it became more. It gave them so much more depth than they would have had if they had fallen into bed upon meeting. They have a foundation of friendship and shared loss that binds them tightly together. They were wonderful as individuals and spectacular as a couple. I truly believed for quite a bit of the book that they would never be more than friends. But I was so glad to be wrong about that.
Favorite Son is a beautifully written story of how losing it all can lead you to find everything you never thought you needed.
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