The Road Home
Michael Thomas Ford
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Buy *The Road Home* by Michael Thomas Ford online

The Road Home
Michael Thomas Ford
352 pages
June 2010
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Fordís latest novel is about closing the doors of the past while keeping the present door open. A decision of twenty-two years ago is the first in a chain of easily preventable mistakes made by Burke Crenshaw, culminating in a car accident after which, against his better judgment, the forty-year-old gay man finds himself recuperating at his fatherís house in Wellston, Vermont.

Tall, white-haired and somewhat heavy, Ed Crenshaw is the true family patriarch. However, there remains in this relationship with his son an underlying sense of disappointment which no amount of Burke's professional success or personal satisfaction can completely overcome. Although Burke senses no resentment while staying there, he canít help but question his fatherís way of saying ďI told you so.Ē

Laid up with a broken leg in his bedroom with a Raiders of the Lost Ark one-sheet hanging on the wall across from his bed, Burke questions the simmering cauldron of conflicting impulses that slowly make themselves felt. Heís actually forgotten what it's like in the country and the so-called quiet, far from Internet service, the frenzy of cell phones and the productive chaos of his life as an accomplished photographer.

Then he makes a surprise reconnection with Mars Janks, whose "wide face and strong jaw" sends a ďshiver of excitementĒ through Burke as he remembers a night of beery sex in the front of Marsís car when they were teens. Neither man has ever spoken about what happened. Over the years, Burke has told himself that it may have been a dream until he meets Will, Mars's handsome twenty-something son, and his attraction for a new generation of Janks men is suddenly ignited.

In a story where "the sin of omission is still a sin," the discovery of a series of Civil War letters given to Burke by Lucy, his fatherís girlfriend, jumpstarts his journey. Almost at once Burke finds himself drawn particularly to a letter written by one Amos Hague, a soldier in the 3rd Vermont Infantry, to his fiance Tess Beattie. Gathering up clues like priceless diamonds, Burke becomes consumed with unlocking Amos and Tess's romantic puzzle, one that holds a number of delightful surprises for both Burke and for the reader.

As Amos's history unfolds, Burke doesnít want to think about how Willís hand brushes against his stomach in this sudden sexual connection. In the beginning itís just kissing, but Burke senses that Will wants more until a surprise revelation from Lucy rocks Burkeís world. Burke is finally able to see Will's vulnerabilities in a whole new light while also sensing a new danger in shouldering much of the young man's pain.

Setting his novel in this New England pastoral landscape, Ford marries his scenes of lovemaking to elements of mystery along with supernatural forces, a ghost of a face in Willís photographs, a homophobic father, a kindly librarian and the sadness of living a closeted life. Love is indeed a powerful and chaotic force in this story, but so is forgiveness as Burke comes to terms with his new and unfamiliar feelings, finding passion in one of the unlikeliest places and attempting to mend the subtle rift with his uncommunicative and taciturn father.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2010

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