Although 50-ish construction worker Gary has a home in a battered trailer on the outskirts of Petulia, Mississippi, his heart is somewhere else. Still haunted by his experiences in the Vietnam War, Gary is devastated by what he sees around him; after all these years, the destruction of the
war is almost impossible for him to fathom.
Gina, his emotionally fraught wife, is having an affair, while his twenty-something daughter, Lulu, is about to pack up and leave for the bright lights of New Orleans. Existing only by shutting out the world, Gary turns to drink and drugs, spending his days downing vodka and prescription medications, choking on the memories and the way his place keeps changing shapes.
Deeply closeted, Gary has spent much of his life struggling with his sexuality, haunted by the dreams of when was younger, mixing drinks and dancing seductively behind a bar, love coming his way in the forms of beautiful ones. Gary knows that he can't go back, so now he drinks alone at the kitchen table, "knowing that all the bottles have run out."
One night at a local gay bar, Gary meets Zachary, a skinny, ghostly twenty-six year-old. With his crooked teeth and his obvious addiction to drugs, Gary spies a kindred spirit, a similarly troubled soul. The two eventually go home together, coiled in a type of shared intimacy.
Gary, however, regrets that he has disappointed Gina again. Tired of her husband's drinking, Gina moves in with another man.
For Gary, it's easier just to swallow the pills and hear the music no matter where it's coming from. Ironically though, it is in this time of great melancholy that Gary does try to embrace life once again.
He asks Zachary to move in with him, much to the mortification of the townsfolk who are beginning to whisper and gossip about their relationship. When Gina discovers what her husband has done, she's disgusted, her small town bigotry and homophobia all too visible. Gary, however, sees it a second chance as the world he knows shifts beneath him and he begins to become wiser.
In this deeply intuitive and exquisitely written novel, two very conflicted men find themselves in the heart of turmoil
and a society that refuses to accept them for who and what they are. Tired of the constant "rattrap of pain," Gary and Zachary find tenderness in the midst of profound grief.
Growing old, Gary sees that he has missed his chance at a love like Zachary. In his vibrant youth, maybe Gary could
have been his lover. But he is no longer youthful, perhaps not even sane. On the other hand, Zachary is the lost puppy, the vulnerable soul and the disconsolate drifter who is desperate to be mothered and loved.
Author Martin Hyatt beautifully traces Gary and Zachary's journey through the landscape of working class Mississippi, skillfully exploring their angst, grief and, ultimately, their doomed love.
True love can turn up in the unlikeliest of places, but menace can also lurk just around the corner. These men are "prisoners of war" lost in a cage of "soft sighs and sharp images," struggling to find hope in the face of impending danger.