My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you, like many, have ever ventured into the scary pool of online dating, you will empathize with Ethan pretty quickly. Even if you haven’t tried various celebrated sites, Ethan’s character is one that will draw you in and send you a gripping tale where you simply can’t put the book down.
Ethan is an early forties gay man, relatively attractive but past the first blush of youth. He has a good, if occasionally mundane, job, lives in the right neighborhood, went to all the nearby gay bars, kept himself in shape and open to possibilities. And yet, after all these “right” moves for years, he is still single and despairing if the greatest possibility for companionship will be of the four-legged variety. His pain is often so tangible and honest that you suffer alongside him. Yet for all of this, Ethan is struggling not to give up hope that he can find a partner, perfect for him.
While immersed in a game of spider solitaire, Ethan overhears the receptionist gushing about a new dating site. This new site was working so well that the obnoxious, flamboyant, attitude ridden twink masquerading as a receptionist barely had time to keep up with all the dating. In a courageous move, Ethan subjects himself to possible ridicule and haltingly asks for the name of the site. After all, if it works wonders for men like “Bubbles” here, it has to have something for a normal, every day guy like Ethan.
Ethan preserves through the slight mocking to get the site name, then through the embarrassingly in depth questionnaire of preferences, likes, dislikes, and the eventual flattering but honest picture. In a scene so many can relate to, Ethan waits breathlessly for replies, refreshing and rechecking his email, confident someone would respond to his carefully worded but honest profile. When he gets no replies, Ethan struggles once again with the despair that perhaps he just is meant to be alone.
In the superficial world that we all live in and more so existing online, Ethan decides to pick a picture of a stunning man but keep his profile otherwise untouched and see the variety of responses he gets now. Not surprisingly, he gets dozens of emails from shallow men who offer anything from sexual favors to worshiping the feet he walks upon. Within this wash of trash, he finds Brian’s gem of an email, showing him a kindred soul. A seeming soul mate with similar interests, a kind, compassionate nature and sense of humor he can appreciate. But once Brian offers a romantic gesture by sending Ethan flowers, he panics and realizes, his game has classically turned and trapped him.
This book is a superbly written tale, focusing on the classic idea of finding a partner and the tricks and turns we trap ourselves with. The characterization of both men are incredibly well done in such an honest, open voice that it was easy to picture Ethan and Brian and furthermore, to empathize with them both. The ending, while predictable, is so beautifully done, humanizing both and showing that even through honesty, your flaws never disappear but you can be loved because of them.