Sheri Joseph
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Buy *Stray* by Sheri Joseph online

Sheri Joseph
444 pages
February 2008
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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An impossible love affair is the catalyst for this beautifully written, finely nuanced novel where emotional collateral damage is unavoidable. Kent has a short, turbulent affair with the decade-younger Paul, their time together complicated by Kentís jealousy of the flirtatious young man he cannot resist.

The affair ends abruptly. Three years later, Kent and Paul meet by chance in a library in Atlanta only to find the attraction undiminished, if not more inflamed by the separation. Only Kentís life has gotten far more complicated: he is married to Maggie, a dedicated Mennonite lawyer who actually lives her belief of daily forgiveness, letting ďGod sort out the casualties.Ē

More sophisticated than when last they met, Paul has grown jaded, sated by a careless promiscuity, now living with an ex-lover, Bernard, a professor who first notices and encourages Paulís budding acting career. In the last stages of cancer, Bernard is forced to watch Paulís infatuation with excess, self-indulgence and promiscuity, resorting to whining and manipulation for attention.

Even Bernard realizes that recently something has changed for Paul, that there is someone new and more serious in his life. Unable to deal with the conflict of wife and lover, Kent bifurcates his existence; for his part, Paul is consumed by curiosity, asking questions Kent refuses entertain.

Unable to bear the unknown, Paul finds Maggie (appropriately named Magdalena) in a shop where she volunteers, making easy friends with her. To his amazement, Paul soon adores Maggie, appreciating the qualities that have drawn Kent to this remarkable woman, her spirit a balm to his troubled soul. When Bernard is murdered, Paul the natural suspect, it is Maggie who defends him, finds him a place to live and worries for his emotional health.

Trapped in an impossible conundrum, the trio must navigate the treacherous waters of a complicated relationship, Paul and Kent unable to leave one another alone, Maggie grown gradually suspicious but not yet identifying the nature of her disquiet. The innocent bystander, Maggie has, by her own actions, become complicit in their dilemma. Clearly, at some point she will learn the truth and be faced with a terrible choice, as will Kent.

In elegant prose, the author exquisitely renders the unbearable tension of love in conflict, a predicament with no acceptable solution. Transcending sexual stereotypes, these souls are sundered by reality, faced by an agonizing loss as each moves into an uncertain future.

Click here for Michael Leonard's interview with Stray author Sheri Joseph

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2007

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