One of the things I try to do when I am accepting books for review is to not only review the type of books I would write. When Jendi Reiter contacted me to offer her book, a gay love story with a Christian undertone, I didn't know what to expect from Two Natures, but was happy to give it a go. What I got was a well written novel with enough descriptive detail to let me walk the life of the main charater Julian. The novel begins in new York City in January 1991. Our protagonist is a fashion photographer in New York, and yes this is during the height of the AIDS epedimic. This book offers a brutal, but not unkind vision of early 1990's.
Two Natures is a very honest bildungsroman, a coming of age novel, with all the key factors, finding your path, breaking with your parents' traditions, learnig to stand independent, with a healthy side of Southern Baptist guilt and a childhood fractured by abuse. His journey is complex and the people that populate his life are founded and defined. Julian is a serious person, and artist, a person sometime prone to self reflection. He felt familiar to me, just like an old friend. There are no caricatures here, no one sided coins. This book could have been about my college friend, who was coming to terms with his own sexual identity during the years I knew him, the same years this book covers. He was creative and passionate, and a little awkward about who he was recognizing as himself, just like we all are. Julian touches the underbelly of New York City, and we are witness to it. Reiter does a great job of bringing the city, and all of her locales to life. She gives enough description and flavor that I got to be there without having to examine every blade of grass along the way. Reiter does exactly what I like in a book, she lets me walk as the character. I am Julian as he struggles against the traditions of his family and the calling of his own soul. I feel his tormoil as he moves through this time in his life and I feel his heart break, along with his joy.
This book is complex, with religious, political, and social realities in the mix. Reiter paints the deminsions of her characters with a very fine brush, capturing their shadows and scars very nicely. This book does not shy away from anything, but it also doesn't make you wallow. There were scenes that made me uncomfortable, in my middle aged, traditional soul, and the very next scene would remind me again of all of our shared human condition. People are people, regardless of their trappings, we all want the same things of lives, to be safe, to know love, to be accepted. You will cheer for Julian in his triumphs, You will weep for him in his dispair. You will know him.
Two Natures but Jendi Reiter is a good book with a really big story. It is published by a small publisher out of Hilo, Hawaii, Saddle Road Press.