Author: Rick R. Reed
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: January 13, 2020
Genre(s): Coming Out
Page Count: 242
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Blurb: Read book blurb here

In reading "Unraveling," I couldn't stop thinking of William Dameron's exceptional memoir The Lie, about his 20-year marriage and decision to finally come out as a gay man. It is equal parts heartbreaking and life-affirming and gives perspective on how devastating it is to live the lie.

Reed notes that his latest novel is "somewhat autobiographical."  Set in 1986,  Randy is in his early 30's with a wife, Violet, and 6-year-old son, Henry.  Feeling that "Everyone who loves me doesn’t even know me. They love a fa├žade, a projection, a mirage made of wishes, impossible hopes, and self-hatred," Randy decides the only answer is suicide.  But Violet stops Randy's attempt and although it breaks her heart, encourages Randy to meet other gay men and explore his sexuality.  As Violet says:
I want you to be yourself [...] And whoever that self is, Randy, it's still you. And I'll always love you.
During Randy's first terrified foray to a gay bar (where the floor was "covered with enough DNA to populate a small country"), he briefly meets EMT John, who has "kissed a lot of frogs and turned over a lot of stones in my search, but never seem to be able to capture what might pass for the fireworks of true love."

Having Randy, John and Violet's POV throughout gives the story a richness and depth of emotion. And engaging secondary characters provides a range of life experiences - soul mates Stephen and Rory who met in high school, Allan and his much-loved pets, Dean who contracts AIDS at a time when there were no antivirals, and even Violet's homophobic mother.

There is no on-page sex (but some instances of what "was simply par for the course for the backroom of a sleazy in Chicago") and yes, there is a HEA here, but it's hard-won and all the sweeter because of adversity. "Unraveling" is a beautifully written very personal story and I highly recommend it. 5 stars.

I received an ARC from the publisher, NineStar Press, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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