Under the Mercy Trees
Harper, Jan 18 2011, $13.99
In 1986 in Willoby County, North Carolina, Leon Owenby disappears without a trace. His younger brother wannabe writer Martin leaves New York City to come home to help in the search for Leon. Martin leaves behind in Manhattan his former lover Dennis and their dying friends as the AIDS epidemic has devastated the New York gay community like a modern day Black Plague.
In North Carolina, Martin resents being back in the closet as he has always hid his sexual preference from family and friends. He even had a girlfriend in high school, who still loves him. Months pass with no progress in finding the missing Leon, but so many family secrets have been revealed; yet perhaps because of his previous self-protective training growing up as a closet gay, no one knows about Martin’s New York lifestyle or at least no one will openly raise it.
Told mostly by Martin although there are other perspectives with each containing their own personality, fans will enjoy this interesting “historical” family drama in which the Reagan era feels like ancient history with its pre Information/Communication age. The premise for the family gathering in Willoby is strong, but their remaining in the county over several months turns the storyline somewhat weak. Still readers will appreciate this enticing tale of secrets revealed by an ensemble cast with diverse emotional needs wearing family masks to conceal those personal issues assumed would lead to excommunication of that person.