Reviewed by Chris
AUTHOR: Charli Coty
PUBLISHER: NineStar Press
LENGTH: 182 pages
RELEASE DATE: February 5, 2018
Ezra Cook is sole caregiver to older brother Tray, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in his forties. They live outside the small town of Drop, Oregon, on property Tray bought with his Microsoft settlement money. For years, Ezra has been going on and off low doses of testosterone to maintain a comfortable level of androgyny. Ezra spends most days juggling Tray’s needs and the work required to survive in rural Oregon on a small income, ignoring their own needs, especially companionship and sleep.
Ellred “Red” Long escaped Drop at seventeen but returns to his hometown in disgrace after his band dumped him on the streets of LA. Coming back doesn’t seem like such a dead end, though, after he sees a guy walking along the side of the road in the rain and gives him a lift.
Ezra and Red’s chance meeting begins an uncomfortable friendship neither had expected, and both allow fear to keep it from escalating into a hookup, or worse, a romance. Red never meant to return to Drop and doesn’t want to get stuck there again, while Ezra’s protective walls may be too strong to breach, from either side.
This is a bit of a hard book to review. Not because the content or even the level of writing, but because I am just so very flummoxed about why I was unable to connect to this story.
Ezra Cook really should have had my attention from the get-go. Living a life somewhere between male and female–but also of both of them at the same time–they were certainly someone I expected to relate to from the start. But Ezra’s standoffish nature–born of being kicked out of their parent’s house at 18, as well as having lived a life trying please everyone, pleasing no one, and struggling to find a balance that felt natural to themselves–was, well, standoffish. And while I totally understand where they were coming from, and even sympathized with the pure stress it must be to have to take care of someone you love while having to watch them inevitably fall deeper into Alzheimer’s, Ezra spent so much of the book trying to keep everyone out, that I think they succeeded a bit more than they hoped. Because I was left standing twenty feet away and unable to bridge the gap for most of the story.
I had a bit of an easier time with Red Long. Granted rock-stars are far from my favorite professions to read about, but having him at what could be considered a low-point in his career–no band, no friends, no real home–made him bearable. And it was the times that Red and Ezra were together on page that I was able to sink into the story and let myself lose myself. For a majority of the book, though, those moments are few and far between. They collide, chemistry gets a brewing, and then one or both of them ends up running in the opposite direction. That I never once failed to understand why that happened did not make the ships-in-the-night aspect of their relationship any less frustrating.
I will say that this is a better structured and executed story than the last one of Coty’s I read. Which probably came from the fewer subplots–or maybe just better wrangled ones. The secondary characters were all very interesting and had definite places in the plot all the while fleshing out Ezra’s backstory in a way that never felt like an info-dump.
To be honest, I’m kinda getting a feeling that this is a “not you, it’s me” kind of book. Because there were a lot of well-placed and well-functioning parts–just having to deal with this lack of connection to the main character caused the whole thing to stutter and stop too many times for my liking. So if the blurb interests you, I feel no desire to warn you off from reading it. Hell, I’ll do the opposite. But for me there just wasn’t enough there to kick it up to 4 stars.
(I should point out that while I decided to use gender-neutral pronouns, the book does use male, female, and gender-neutral pronouns for Ezra–for various reasons that make sense in their places in the story. I just decided to stick with the gender-neutral ones.)