Ford McKinney leads a charmed life: he's a young doctor possessing good looks, good breeding, and money. He comes from an old Savannah family where his parents, attentive to his future, focus their energies on finding their son--their golden boy--a girl to marry. But how charmed is this life when Ford's own heart suspects that he is not meant to spend his life with a woman? His suspicions are confirmed when he meets Dan Crell.
Dan is a quiet man with a great voice. Behind the tempered facade of the shy hospital administrator is a singer who can transform a room with his soaring voice, leaving his listeners in awe and reverence. Ford catches one such Christmas concert and his life is never quite the same; he is touched in a place he keeps hidden, forbidden. When Ford and Dan begin to explore the limits of their relationship, Dan's own secrets are exposed--and his mysterious and painful childhood returns to haunt him.
In Comfort and Joy Jim Grimsley finds a marriage between the stark and stunning pain of his prize-winning Winter Birds and the passion of critically acclaimed Dream Boy. In this, his fourth novel, he considers pressing questions. How does a man reconcile the child he was raised to be with the man that he truly is? What happens when an adult has to choose between his parents and a lover?
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Question: What could be more terrifying than bringing your significant other home for Christmas? Answer: Bringing home your significant other of the same sex. From the start, it's clear that Jim Grimsley's vision of the holidays holds as much darkness as it does light. Ford McKinney first lays eyes on Dan Crell when he's singing carols at the hospital where they both work, the mournful minor-key tones of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" seeming to broadcast "the sadness of Christmas" in contrast to the lights and decorations around them. Their attraction is immediate, but the couple must face down several obstacles. For one thing, Dan is a hemophiliac who's HIV-positive. And Ford, a rich doctor from a prominent Savannah family, doesn't even think of himself as gay. That the two manage to meet, date, and fall in love is something of a miracle in itself--perhaps the only one that can sustain them through the season of miracles.
Comfort and Joy alternates scenes of Ford and Dan's courtship with their trip to North Carolina to meet Dan's family. Like any couple anywhere, they argue about money and their families; unlike some couples, they also argue about Dan's health and Ford's reluctance to kiss. In chronicling their history, however, Grimsley gets at something fundamental: the strange mixture of love and hate and anxiety at the bottom of every relationship, gay or straight. "You're really not as bright as I am and that's a problem," they both think, being "honest" with themselves, then wonder: "Why do men stay together?" The easy answer, of course, is that they love each other. The more complicated one is that, in living together, they've begun to dream the same dreams, breathe in rhythm, lay down "crevices" inside themselves in the shapes of each other. This, Dan thinks, is enough: "enough, without words, to keep them silent about the fact of their hates and their fears, their deep concerns about each other, and the certainty that one of them would die first and neither of them knew which one it would be."
The novel's prose is workmanlike at its best, but Grimsley's understanding of the human heart is deep and rich. His book refuses easy answers and stereotypes; for example, the mysterious trauma in Dan's childhood stays in the background, where it belongs. A lesser writer would have chosen to make its revelation the book's climax--the epiphany that explains Dan's character--but Grimsley knows that childhood pain is only one of many things that make us who we are. Such is the difference between fiction that seeks to tell us who we are and fiction that knows what a mystery we are at our core. Comfort and Joy is not just a book for gay readers: it's a book for everyone who's ever been in love, who's ever had a family, who's ever wanted to find some kind of refuge from the world. --Chloe ByrneFrom the Back Cover:
Praise for Winter Birds:
--Winner of the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters
--Finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award
"I have rarely read anything as powerful as Winter Birds. I wanted to steal it and pretend it was mine, or go on tour reading it out loud...This man got it right, he got it perfectly right."--Dorothy Allison
"I think I will not read another novel this year. Nothing else can be as vivid, as awful and awesome as this enormously powerful book."--Max Steele
"Reminiscent of Faulkner or Caldwell."--Booklist
"Southern landscape viewed from a gay perspective with the bitterness of memory but also with the unwavering, unsentimental love--all this, of course, is Dorothy Allison territory. I can't think of a soldier tribute."--The New Yorker
Praise for Dream Boy:
--Winner of the GLBTF Book Award for Fiction from the ALA
--Nominated for the Lambda Award for Fiction
"Grimsley clearly understands the pain and confusion of budding love...in this singular display of literary craftmanship."--Publishers Weekly
"My admiration for Jim Grimsley's power is widened and deepened."--Reynolds Place
Praise for My Drowning:
--A Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award winner
"My Drowning is magnificent, just masterful. So much is not said and yet we know everything."--Ann Patchett
"Rural poverty can turn people vicious too, as readers discovered in Erksine Caldwell's 1932 best seller, 'Tobacco Road'...My Drowning eloquently carries on this dark tradition."--The New York Times Book Review
"Grimsley's delicate prose and defiant resilience of his protagonist make reading his work a rich, gratifying experience."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
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