A Faithful Son ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp
A Faithful Son is a novel by a writer named Michael Scott Garvin. It begins in the late 1950s with the character Zach Nance as an adolescent boy. (Zach is narrating the story in his own voice.) He lives in a small Colorado town with his parents and two sisters. They are a religious, traditional, conservative family.
Zach and his two sisters, Katie and Laura, have an idyllic childhood, doing all the things that kids of this period love to do. They climb mountains and hike in the woods and play and catch the bus every morning to go to school. They have what almost seems to be a perfect life until tragedy strikes. Zach’s younger sister, Katie, is killed in an automobile accident in which the father is driving. In his grief, he turns to the bottle and becomes an irresponsible alcoholic.
Eventually the father drifts out of the family, leaving Zach and his remaining sister Laura and their mother to fend for themselves. Zach grows up the way all boys do, but he has a secret that he knows his mother, sister and the people of his community will never understand: he is gay.
He grows to adulthood, keeping his secret to himself. He works and begins drinking a lot, just as his father and grandfather did (it’s in his genes). He has clandestine dalliances with some of the local boys (one of them serious) but they always drift away and Zach ends up alone. He dates girls but, of course, this is only for show and will never work out.
Finally Zach leaves home and ends up in Los Angeles. He becomes a professional landscaper/gardener, starting out small at first and then growing into a real business where he employs other workers. At a gay bar, he meets a handsome boy named Doug. They seem to hit it off and begin a “relationship.” All the time Zach feels insecure, though, in his sexuality, believing that Doug will find somebody he likes better and leave. In the meantime, Zach’s drunken father has died back in Colorado and his mother develops cancer. It’s just one thing after another.
A Faithful Son is a breezy novel, so easy to read you’ll almost feel like you’re not reading at all. It’s a so-so story, nothing new, a story that has been told many times before. For this reason, I was a little surprised to see the list of awards it has won. The writing contains lots of misplaced (or dangling) modifiers, and it makes you wonder why the publisher didn’t employ an editor to fix these. Since it’s told in the first-person voice of Zach Nance, I suppose the feeling is that misplaced modifiers are just part of colloquial language and are acceptable. Also, there are some troubling anachronisms in the story concerning cell phones, microwave ovens and phone answering machines. I don’t know the age of the writer, Michael Scott Garvin, but I’m guessing that a lot of young people don’t remember a time when there weren’t cell phones, microwave ovens and phone answering machines and assume those things have always been around, like electricity. It is my fervent belief that there were no microwave ovens or answering machines until the 1980s, and cell phones weren’t in widespread use until the 1990s. But, then again, what do I know?
Copyright © 2018 by Allen Kopp