A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: A man torn apart by grief, clings to hope and learns how to live once more.
Blurb: Peter wasn’t prepared when his love, Shayne, died in a car crash. His only solace is listening to Shayne’s voicemail to hear his voice one last time. He’s equally unprepared when one night Shayne answers the phone.
Review: It is often a fact of life that an author, upon finding their niche, remains there, rarely venturing into another genre. After all, when was the last time Stephen King wrote historical fiction or Dean Koontz wrote a romantic comedy. No, for the most part an author hits his mark and comfortably remains there, honing his craft.
Author John Goode, on the other hand, is a rule breaker, deciding to join the ranks of the few M/M authors who write both adult M/M and YA (young adult) M/M fiction. For a lark, he also decided to throw in just a hint of the supernatural for a twist and came up with this: Last Dance with Mary Jane.
And so, I must begin this review with an unqualified, heartfelt statement, Last Dance with Mary Jane was not good—it was devastatingly brilliant. And I have the empty tissue box to prove it!
In the opening pages of this novel you find out that the main character, Peter, has lost his partner, Shayne, or as Peter affectionately calls him MJ (Mary Jane—to find out why, you will need to read the book—now, now, dear reader, I can’t give away all the secret little gems to be found in this novella).
Understandably, Peter is devastated. Having made his fortune in the dot com world, Peter was financially prepared when the heart stopping diagnosis of AIDS began to slowly kill Shayne. However, what he was completely unprepared for was Shayne getting better. He had lived for so many years waiting for the other shoe to drop that he almost did not recognize when they stopped falling.
“The thing about living with a death sentence for so long is you tend to miss the moment life starts to get better because you’re so ready for it to get much, much worse.”
At Shayne’s encouragement, Peter picks up his life again and begins consulting work; quickly falling into a schedule that has him more absent than present in their life together. When Shayne is ripped from Peter’s overly busy workaholic life, Peter goes into a tailspin of deep depression, seeking out the help of a counselor, a bartender, and even a neighbor; all of whom gently try to remind him that without some pain in our lives we cannot recognize the joy. And when we only focus on the end moment, we fail to remember the moments of happiness in the journey.
Rightfully so, Peter hangs onto his pain and anger and drowns their words of comfort in a bottle of booze. Meanwhile, he clutches to his dead partner’s mobile like a lifeline and faithfully calls it just to hear Shayne’s voice on the answering message. I believe that this is where my heart simply began to break…. I could see myself doing the same thing. I could feel Peter’s pain resonate on every page…and the words this author used to portray that sadness rocked me with their incredible truth and conviction.
Then one day, while once more dialing Shayne’s mobile in order to hear his voice just once more, the phone clicks in and a very familiar voice says hello. Thus begins a torturous journey of frantic proportions that will lead to a life-changing revelation for Peter and, in the end, allow him to breathe for the first time since Shayne’s death.
However, getting to that breathing part? It was, unfortunately, earmarked by more pain and deep, sometimes dark introspection and undeniable truth. Peter is shown, irrefutably that we all have a part and a stake in this plan we call life; and no matter how much we want it to be different—want for it to work on our timetable, life marches on and sometimes it is cut short.
Did I mention that empty box of tissues? Did I mention that I also stay away from angst in novels in general? I do, truly. It takes an incredible story—a well-written, life-affirming novel to make me delve into a story line that is in it’s way not truly a happy ending but most assuredly a hopeful, uplifting ending. That is Last Dance with with Mary Jane in a nutshell.
Due to John Goode’s masterful writing, the reader plumbs the depths of all that make his characters tick. We live with them, laugh and dream with them and yes…weep with them. Our hearts are linked irrevocably with the people he creates and we see pieces of ourselves–our beliefs, our loves and our hurts on the page.
Last Dance with Mary Jane was not just a story of loss–no, it was much, much more. It was a story that will resonate far beyond the last page—a story that will change the way you think, the way you live…the way you dance.
“Because you should have been told every hour of every day how much you meant to me. I wasted so much time trying to keep my poker face on and hiding the bad stuff that I never showed the good stuff, and you deserved better.”
As always, dear reader, I leave it up to you. But…but, I do encourage you to step up and join the dance—I think you will not regret it.