Title: When the Right One Comes Along
Author: Paul Alan Fahey
Length: 16,994 words
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: Gay Fiction, Recent Historical & Contemporary
Blurb: Philip Noland is in his late thirties when his best friend, Jonathan, contracts AIDS. In an effort to maintain some control over Jonathan’s illness, Philip becomes his caregiver and go-between with the hospital doctors.
The mid-1980’s are a time of uncertainty and ignorance about the disease. Hysteria reigns supreme. Actors are reluctant to kiss gay costars because they believe saliva carries the virus. Others worry about sharing dishes and silverware. To add to the mix, what medical science doesn’t know about this devastating illness could fill a condom the size of the Hindenburg.
Philip is not GQ gorgeous. He’s the first to admit it. But he never gives up on his search for a soul mate, someone to complete him. In spite of the growing warnings about safe sex, Philip continues to look for Mr. Right, often in all the wrong places.
Then he meets Joshua. Is Philip’s journey finally over? Or does fate have something — or someone else — in mind for him?
Review: Phil’s romantic life is told through the series of men in his life, from friends to lovers, and by the cultural markers and progression of HIV/AIDS through the past 25 years. The story starts in 1985. Phil is a new English professor, and his best friend Jonathan is dying of AIDS. Forced to become a caregiver, the daily reality of the “gay disease” is at war with his own need and hope of finding Mr. Right. And even though he doesn’t seem to know any other way of doing that but by the culture of excessive sex, he wants to find his soul mate more than anything.
I wouldn’t categorize this as romance, though it is a romantic story and about the search for love and more than anything Philip’s need for love. He goes through much of life alone, despairing of finding “the one” but still hopeful over the years. Fast forward ten years, and Philip meets Joshua, who seems to be everything he’s looking for.
The beauty in this story is in the way that it doesn’t shy away from harsh detail — especially in the first part of the story. Phil’s time as a caretaker for his friend shape the way that he sees and understands life, and the detail of the shit and vomit and tears and fear isn’t passed over, though it also isn’t dwelt upon. Though I’ve read little in the way of memoir of the time from gay men, this felt that way to me whether it is or isn’t. The prose is saturated with real feeling and especially fear that is rooted in the uncertainty of the time and placed in history by memorable social landmarks (Reagan, the death of Rock Hudson).
The format of the story — scenes in time that span several decades — leads to a sense that the story is told in retrospect, yet without relying on retrospective melodrama. The scenes felt present in place and time to me, but I could also read the subtle cues left by Phil, the narrator as to how to feel about a situation or character. The was somewhat important later in the story, as Phil narrates through the minefield of his romantic life and the men that enter and leave it in various means.
This is an author I’ll watch out for. I’m really happy that I took a chance to read this story and I won’t let it be the last I’ll read by this author. And it’s a story that I think everyone else deserves to read as well. Definitely Recommended!