The Far Away Years by L.F. Blake
Danny and Jeff have never had an easy relationship. Danny admits early on that he wants Jeff, maybe even loves him, but all Jeff wants is a normal life, at least as normal as a rock star can have. Over the years, the two of them will come together and drift apart, as Danny spirals deeper into depression over what he feels is an unrequited love. Jeff has his ownreasons for pushing Danny away, but when he finally decides to take life by the horns and find Danny again, it might be too late. Can Jeff and Danny find a wayto put their past behind them, and build a future as bright as the prospects of their new band?
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
The Far Away Years is a mixed blessing. On the one hand it’s very emotional, interesting, and engaging. I didn’t ever want to put it down. The flip side to that is for 200 pages the main characters spiral down in a host of self destructive behavior and really horrible actions. They finally find happiness and redemption in the last 50 pages or so but I find it hard to buy into the happy ending. One week of good behavior versus 10 years of abuse and neglect don’t really even out. Since it is a romance though and a happy ending is wanted, I could suspend disbelief and hope for the best.
The story is told in alternating third person perspective over the course of 10 years. The two characters meet in the late 1970s and form a band together. Danny is instantly in love with Jeff but the two remain platonic best friends for years. They live together, along with their girlfriend and wife respectively, and enjoy moderate musical success. Meaning they make barely enough to survive and keep them in drugs, alcohol, and sex. Daniel finally admits his long time hidden love for Jeff and the two begin an affair.
Jeff and Danny are incredibly destructive and co-dependant during this time. Jeff refuses to leave his classically evil/bitchy wife Lani and instead uses Danny for sex and companionship. Danny is so dependant on Jeff that he takes whatever scraps of affection he can while self medicating with drugs, alcohol, and cover up women to take away his loneliness. This pattern goes on for years and the downward spiral the both go on is at times hard to read. Neither can stop it, neither really wants to stop it, and instead they indulge in risky behavior with heavy emotional tolls.
The end isn’t in sight either as Jeff and Lani eventually have kids together and Danny’s drug use and obsession with Jeff results in Jeff leaving the band and moving away. Both men contribute heavily to the disintegration of their friendship and hidden affair and neither does anything that makes you want to like the characters. Unfortunately I’m a sucker for the lonely, broken, angsty rocker types so I of course loved both even as I wanted to smack them so hard their teeth fell out. They’re motivated by different fears and drives, each complex and difficult to overcome, that play big parts in their self destructive behavior.
The story picks up a few years after Jeff has gone and shows Danny’s continual drug use and multiple suicide attempts. Jeff has stuck his head in the sand and continued having kids with the classic evil wife until one day he smartens up, rescues Danny, and they live happily ever after. The ending is very romantic, though not realistic. The idea that one week with Jeff cures Danny of 10 years of heavy drug abuse and serious suicidal attempts is simply ridiculous. There is no professional medical care or emotional support, so you just have to go with the story when it becomes unbelievable at this point.
Jeff and Danny are well crafted characters with many nuances. Unfortunately they’re surrounded by a sea of classically evil, uncaring typical men and women. Lani, Jeff’s wife, is so cardboard it’s hard to appreciate the depth she offers Jeff. Adam is a good character in Danny’s redemption but there is an awful ending to that, which ruins his considerable impact. Jeff and Danny shine in their self destructive behavior because the story never fails to go there. They can and always do sink lower, become more pathetic, betray their weaknesses and desperate neediness. This isn’t bad, you just have to love angsty, broken men to appreciate the final happy ending after all the suffering.
I will say I didn’t find this story depressing at all since the suffering is always tempered with leaps in time to show more mundane actions. Also the viewpoints offered help alleviate the visceral reaction to the pain in that Danny often so such vulnerability, talent, caring, and a good heart that you can’t help but like him. His actions are frustrating as he never really hits rock bottom, he’s just finally rescued by Jeff. This co-dependant relationship is pretty unhealthy but romance fans are likely to appreciate a solid happy ending. Overall I enjoyed reading this as its engrossing and interesting; one of the better angst filled emo rocker stories though I wouldn’t particularly read it again.