What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Life’s a gamble–and lately David Schwartz’s partner has been losing so much that David must close their restaurant, the hippest little place in Portland. He sells everything and moves back home, but at thirty-five, he’s not eager to sleep alone in his childhood bedroom or to be supported by his father for the second time in his adult life.David’s had enough. He needs to start over, maybe with someone like the elusive man he’s been seeing in his dreams. An old friend offers him a job catering a movie set in Puerto Vallarta. It’s been years since David’s alcoholism spun out of control along the highways of Mexico. Determined to experience Mexico sober, he stuffs his few remaining possessions in a backpack and takes the next flight down.As Mexico prepares for Christmas, David lights Hanukkah candles, celebrating the return of the sun and wishing for true love. On the first night of Hanukkah, David meets a tall, dark stranger who rocks his world in a secluded moonlit cove. Is this the mystery man of his dreams–the answer to David’s prayers? And what must David sacrifice to make his dreams come true?
What worked for me (and what didn’t): I liked David very much and, over the course of the book, felt I got to know him fairly well. David is a recovering alcoholic and as he deals with his breakup with Rick and the demise of his restaurant because of Rick’s actions, as he travels for work to Mexico and deals with old trauma, I very much admired how he clung to his sobriety. How he found AA meetings and went to them, how he reached out and throught through his actions to keep him from drinking, no matter the significant temptations. There was a clarity to David’s breakup with Rick and even though he lost virtually everything, it came across as freeing rather than a complete failure.
John was much harder to get to know. The story is told in David’s first person POV and John takes a while to make an appearance at all. When he does, he is very much a mystery. He remained largely unknown for most of the story and I understand the narrative imperative for that. Just when I was coming to the end of the book and when I was thinking that it felt like I had missed an entire character however, John becomes much more present. The imagery of the story was that John was very much a person who felt that sex should come with commitment. His attraction to David is so strong though that he breaks his own rules but struggles with the aftermath. At around the time when John becomes more visible to the reader, he is also becoming more known to David and by then they are in a relationship (newly, but still). As John’s concerns regarding lack of committment ease, he begins to become clear on the the page also. By the end of the book, I still wanted to know more about John but I can certainly understand the choice the author made. To know John’s motivations earlier would have spoiled the story and made it a completely different journey for David.
By the end of the book, I did feel that John and David belonged together. I could happily have read more, particularly I would have liked the period of time they were alone near the end before the final conflict to be expanded and to learn more about John – I think this could have been done without revealing the salient details needed to end the book as it did.
The story had a kind of leisurely pace to it which seemed to fit the characters and the exotic location, without ever being slow or boring. I enjoyed reading about Mexico and David’s non-tourist-y experience – I’ve never been there and know little about Mexico but if felt authentic to me and added greatly to the atmosphere of the book. Something about serenity and the bloom of the lush jungle I think.
I liked this one very much. I enjoyed especially the spiritual aspects and the way John brought those into his relationship with David very organically. I loved his gift at the end!
The writing was beautiful, as I’ve come to expect from this author. In the past, I have been a little critical of a certain lack of depth to the characterisation. Here, and much to my delight, David gets the full treatment, and while John is less known, there are story reasons for that which worked for me (even as I would still have liked to have known him better).