Author: Doug Lloyd
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 270 Pages
At a Glance: I was impressed by Doug Lloyd’s debut novel. Memory is at once a beautiful love story, and a powerful story of bravery and being true to who you are, even in the face of bigotry and hatred.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Paul Nelson, a military veteran home from Korea, refuses to stand by and watch Kenneth Pittman, a young man he’s just met, get beat up by a group of teens. After a few chance encounters with Kenneth, Paul questions parts of his identity he’s been trying to suppress, and despite his struggles re-acclimating to civilian life and his personal fears, Paul finds the courage to ask Kenneth on a date. The two then begin a relationship.
But in the 1950s, cultural and societal norms threaten openly gay men. Paul and Kenneth can only see each other in secret, and Paul’s new boss, a former investigative journalist and proud bigot, has a habit of meddling in his employees’ lives. After tragedy strikes close to home, the two men question whether their slice of happiness is worth the trouble or if safety is more important.
After vacationing together in Provincetown, a gay haven, to escape the chaos, they decide to stick it out, only to return to the consequences of being outed to everyone they know. Ultimately, Paul realizes the freedom he fought for should apply to them too, and he must bravely act in defiance of society’s expectations to be with the man he loves.
Review: I joked with a friend when I was reading this that I hadn’t read a “fade-to-black” since Twilight, which is a bit funny, but I’ll be the first to tell you that this book doesn’t need the explicit love scenes that so many of us are used to in romances these days. Doug Lloyd stays true to the time by keeping things fairly chaste on the page, and it really does work. I’m a big fan of historical fiction, and he did a great job of rooting us in the time. The guys absolutely appear to be true to what young men in the 50s were like, and the setting and descriptions of post-war 1952 Boston felt spot-on.
The book begins with Paul returning from the Korean War, and trying to make sense of his life back home. He lost both his parents while he was on duty, and his younger brother has gone away to college, leaving Paul to care for his parents’ home on his own. Immediately on his arrival back to his hometown, he meets a young man named Kenneth, who stirs up some old feelings for Paul. From here, Lloyd begins to weave his story – of Paul accepting his feelings, as well as his right to have them; of Paul and Kenneth, their fight to be together, and how they better each other’s lives; of how impossible it must have felt to be a GLBT citizen not all that long ago in our history. It was obviously not an easy time for young gay men, and the author does a fantastic job of depicting their struggles.
One bright spot amidst their daily battles with Paul’s hateful boss, a violent hate crime at Kenneth’s job, and general small-mindedness, was their trip to Provincetown. I loved that they had that respite and the chance to see what a world of acceptance could be like. Those moments of getting to openly hold hands, or be close to each other without any snide looks or comments, gave them the strength to imagine living their lives without fear. Without that fear of others knowing what they were to each other. Paul especially needed to draw on this strength later in the story.
Paul was amazing. I have so much love for him. His kind heart was evident in everything that he did – but, he could also be incredibly fierce when he needed to be. One of those occasions was toward the end of the book, when his brother Dave was down for a visit from school. Dave finds out about Paul and Kenneth, and doesn’t immediately react favorably. The tongue-lashing that Paul gives his poor brother is FANTASTIC. I just looked at the note on my highlight, and it made me chuckle and go back to read the bit again… “Epic speech is epic.”
I was impressed by Doug Lloyd’s debut novel. Memory is at once a beautiful love story, and a powerful story of bravery and being true to who you are, even in the face of bigotry and hatred. I truly enjoyed it – cover to cover. There were times – especially after a longer stretch of being more political – that I thought it could use a bit more ‘oomph’. But overall, the writing is very tight, and the character development was wonderful. No spoilers, but I will say that I went back and reread the last couple of chapters after I finished; they were that good. I was actually wiping tears from my cheeks as I read the final chapter. There is no doubt that the author has a talent for storytelling. I hope to be seeing more about his future endeavors!
You can buy Memory here: