Title: Looking Forward
Author: Michael Bailey
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 258 Pages
At a Glance: Looking Forward is rather like two novels in one. While the second half of the book was a bit disjointed, the first half was emotionally devastating and so very well done.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Owen Hannity was nineteen when he lost almost everyone he thought he could trust. Each loss more painful than the last.
With the unwavering support of his best friend, Andy, Owen put the pieces of his life back together. Now, more than two decades later, Owen owns and operates a successful comic shop. Despite his modicum of success, he still feels like a shell of a man, carrying the emotional scars from his past.
Without warning, Owen’s past returns. Secrets come to light. Secrets that could either destroy Owen or finally give him the strength to re-evaluate everything he thought he knew about Andy, himself, and the way in which he views the world.
To see that he is truly worthy of loving himself and finally begin…
Review: When Owen was just nineteen his life went to hell in a matter of days and left him gutted and lost. Right around the time his evil stepmother finally decided that mentally abusing him and reminding him daily that he was nothing more than a useless, disappointing “queer” and told Owen’s father his secret, was where is all began. It took only a matter of days for Owen to find himself cut off, homeless and disowned. At least his angry, homophobic father didn’t beat him, as he often did his stepmother’s drug addict son. Owen would have been completely lost if not for two guys—one his best friend, Andy, and the other his closeted boyfriend, Jack.
Andy was out and proud and took no shit from anyone. He was also Owen’s secret crush until Jack, Andy’s cousin, came to visit. Jack was straight—sort of. After one night on the town, he slipped his phone number into Owen’s pocket, and thus began a secretive relationship. Just as it seemed things were about to move to a more intimate level, Jack vanished. Heartbroken, alone and devastated, Owen relies on Andy to help him pick up the pieces of his scattered life and his broken heart. Some twenty years later, Owen has successfully turned his hobby of collecting comic books into a profitable business. Andy is still his best friend, and the past is about to come knocking at his door. Now Owen faces a choice he never thought he would have to, and he will be forced to choose between the two men who have meant more to him than he ever thought possible.
Looking Forward is rather like two novels in one. The first part of the book deals with a young Owen and the events that would shape the man he would become over twenty years later. This first half was emotionally devastating and so very well done. You felt every hit Owen took and could feel his anguish and confusion as each interaction with his stepmother and father chipped away at his self-esteem and crushed his spirit. Author Michael Bailey masterfully describes Owen’s first love and the aftereffect of its loss. I will say that this section of Looking Forward was really well written, emotionally impacting and incredibly realistic.
From there, we move into the present day and fans of Mr. Bailey’s first novel, Looking In, will recognize the comic book store crew and the now grown Owen, who is the store’s proprietor. He and Andy are still going strong with a weekly “date night”, as Andy likes to call them, and life has settled into a busy yet familiar groove. Then, all hell breaks loose with the simple event of a Facebook friend request. It’s in this part of the novel that we begin to really grasp just how deeply Owen was affected by Jack’s disappearance and his parents’ verbal abuse and abandonment.
I will admit that it was here that the story became a bit disjointed for me. I think the author’s desire to push toward a climactic confrontation near the end of the novel allowed for these chapters to dance around the elephant in the room—namely what made Jack disappear all those years before. I kept waiting for that conversation. I also kept wondering just how long it would take the normally outspoken Andy to weigh in. I did, however, understand that we needed to see just how conflicted and messed up the past had left poor Owen. In that vein, I think the author succeeded in revealing a great deal about his main character. However, by stretching out the inevitable, I felt the pacing of the novel lagged a bit, causing the impact the author was going for at the end of the novel to be somewhat diminished.
Looking Forward is a story of survival and rising from the ashes of a devastating past. It is also an exploration of the idea that love is often closer to us than we realize, and discovering that truth can free us from anything that threatens to keep us chained to past hurt and trauma. Michael Bailey will be an author to watch as he continues to grow his craft and develop his storytelling capabilities. I look forward to reading more by this author.
You can buy Looking Forward here:
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