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The Dove in the Belly

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At the University of North Carolina, Ronny's made some friends, kept his secrets, survived dorm life, and protected his heart. Until he can't. Ben is in some ways Ronny's opposite; he's big and solid where Ronny is small and slight. Ben's at UNC on a football scholarship. Confident, with that easy jock swagger, and an explosive temper always simmering. He has a steady strea At the University of North Carolina, Ronny's made some friends, kept his secrets, survived dorm life, and protected his heart. Until he can't. Ben is in some ways Ronny's opposite; he's big and solid where Ronny is small and slight. Ben's at UNC on a football scholarship. Confident, with that easy jock swagger, and an explosive temper always simmering. He has a steady stream of girlfriends. Ben's aware of the overwhelming effect he has on Ronny. It's like a sensation of power. So easy to tease Ronny, throw playful insults, but it all feels somehow.loaded. Meanwhile Ronny's mother has moved to Vegas with her latest husband. And Ben's mother is fighting advanced cancer. A bubble forms around the two, as surprising to Ronny as it is to Ben. Within it their connection ignites physically and emotionally. But what will happen when the tensile strength of a bubble is tested? When the rest of life intervenes? The Dove in the Belly is about the electric, dangerous, sometimes tender but always powerful attraction between two very different boys. But it's also about the full cycles of love and life and how they open in us the twinned capacities for grief and joy.


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At the University of North Carolina, Ronny's made some friends, kept his secrets, survived dorm life, and protected his heart. Until he can't. Ben is in some ways Ronny's opposite; he's big and solid where Ronny is small and slight. Ben's at UNC on a football scholarship. Confident, with that easy jock swagger, and an explosive temper always simmering. He has a steady strea At the University of North Carolina, Ronny's made some friends, kept his secrets, survived dorm life, and protected his heart. Until he can't. Ben is in some ways Ronny's opposite; he's big and solid where Ronny is small and slight. Ben's at UNC on a football scholarship. Confident, with that easy jock swagger, and an explosive temper always simmering. He has a steady stream of girlfriends. Ben's aware of the overwhelming effect he has on Ronny. It's like a sensation of power. So easy to tease Ronny, throw playful insults, but it all feels somehow.loaded. Meanwhile Ronny's mother has moved to Vegas with her latest husband. And Ben's mother is fighting advanced cancer. A bubble forms around the two, as surprising to Ronny as it is to Ben. Within it their connection ignites physically and emotionally. But what will happen when the tensile strength of a bubble is tested? When the rest of life intervenes? The Dove in the Belly is about the electric, dangerous, sometimes tender but always powerful attraction between two very different boys. But it's also about the full cycles of love and life and how they open in us the twinned capacities for grief and joy.

30 review for The Dove in the Belly

  1. 5 out of 5

    luce ❀ wishfully reading ❀

    ❀ blog ❀ thestorygraph ❀ letterboxd ❀ tumblr ❀ ko-fi ❀ in The Dove in the Belly, it's all about the 𝔂𝓮𝓪𝓻𝓷𝓲𝓷𝓰 “A moment of happiness could feel almost like a wound.” The Dove in the Belly is a work of startling beauty that presents its readers with a piercing exploration of male intimacy and a mesmerizing study of queer desire that beautifully elaborates the many gradations of love. Jim Grimsley captures the pain of longing, articulating with exacting precision love’s double-edged nature, from i ❀ blog ❀ thestorygraph ❀ letterboxd ❀ tumblr ❀ ko-fi ❀ in The Dove in the Belly, it's all about the 𝔂𝓮𝓪𝓻𝓷𝓲𝓷𝓰 “A moment of happiness could feel almost like a wound.” The Dove in the Belly is a work of startling beauty that presents its readers with a piercing exploration of male intimacy and a mesmerizing study of queer desire that beautifully elaborates the many gradations of love. Jim Grimsley captures the pain of longing, articulating with exacting precision love’s double-edged nature, from its capacity to hurt and anguish us, to its ability to transfigure and revive us. The Dove in the Belly is a romance that is equal parts tender and brutal, one that is permeated by ambivalence and angst, but also affinity and ardor. As my boy Lacan would say, it’s all about the jouissance, that ‘backhanded enjoyment’ that ‘begins with a tickle and ends with blaze of petrol’. The love story that is at the heart of this narrative, which is as tender as it is fraught, is characterized by an exhilarating sense of impermanence. It is admirable that the author is able to breathe new life into what could easily be seen as a tired dynamic, that between the ‘straight’ jock and the more introverted intellectual. Perhaps the setting, mid-1970s, made me more amenable to become invested in these characters, despite their behaviour and attitudes, or maybe it is thanks to Grimsley’s unrelentingly gorgeous prose. Fact is, I fell in love with this book. Most of the narrative takes place on the campus of the University of North Carolina, where both Ronny and Ben are enrolled. Ronny is studying English literature and journalism whereas Ben is there on a football scholarship. In many ways two are very much opposites, however, they form an unlikely camaraderie one that eventually sparks into a more meaningful friendship. Ronny’s attraction to Ben soon leads to a harder to shake infatuation, one that Ben is not only aware of but he seems to relish the power he has over Ronny. Of course, this kind of dynamic is not a healthy one, and Grimsley renders the confusing and contradictory jumble of emotions experienced by Ronny, the anguish and titillation he feels at being ‘seen’. While Ben’s unsparing words often hurt Ronny, we also see how often his cruelty is undercut by genuine affection. We also glimpse in his actions an ache that hints at something ‘more’... Over the course of the summer holidays, their relationship transforms into something more charged, and the moments of playfulness and banter give way to a more (in)tense if tentative connection, one that is made all the more fragile by Ben’s deep-seated homophobia and by having to cope with his mother’s rapidly deteriorating health. Ronny, who is becoming more comfortable with his sexuality, struggles to maintain their relationship afloat, especially with Ben’s unwieldy temper. While the possibility of violence threatens many of their moments together, we also see the comfort they can give one another. Although I don’t like the word ‘frisson’ (i can’t explain it, it just makes me wanna exit the chat) it is a rather apt word to describe the current underlining many of Ben and Ronny's interactions. My heart went out to Ronny. While some may find his fixation and devotion to Ben strange or frustrating, I understood it all too well. I loved how quiet, sensitive, and contemplative he was, as well as the way he observes the people and environments around him. While initially Ben stands in stark contrast against Ronny, as more of his character is ‘unveiled’ to us, I found myself softening to him. Make no mistake, Ben was still capable of upsetting me (he has a temper on him, he’s possessive, and when confronting things he doesn’t want to he goes into fight/flight mode) but, and this is a testament to Grimsley’s storytelling, I found myself unable and or unwilling to dismiss him as ‘toxic’ or ‘bad’. Grimsley populates his novel with fully-formed individuals, who have lives, fears, and wishes, of their own (as opposed to serving as mere background ‘props’ to our main characters). I loved the rhythm of his dialogues, which reveal moments of discordance, whether a pause in the conversation is a sign of unease or contentment, the difficulties in expressing feelings that are ‘off limits’, and the feelings of desperation that sometimes motivate us to speak with seeming cruelty or indifference. I appreciated how empathic the author was, in not condemning his characters for their mistakes, and in his compassionate treatment of characters outside of Ronny and Ben. The prose is something to behold. It had the capacity to move me to tears, surprise me with its delicate touch, inspire me with its elegantly turned phrases, and lacerate me with its fiercely observed insights into love, grief, desire, and heartache. Grimsley’s prose brought to mind An Ocean Without a Shore by Scott Spencer, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, and authors such as John Boyne. The all-consuming relationship between Ronny and Ben brought to mind These Violent Delights, Apartment, Carol, and especially the work of Brandon Taylor, who simply excels at portraying uneasy relationships and unclear feelings. 2022 has not been a great reading year for me. With the exception of re-reads, I have only given a single 5 star rating (to Elif Batuman's Either/Or) so I am so thankful to have come across this unforgettable book. It may have singlehandedly saved my reading year. The Dove in the Belly explores a messy love story between two young people who are by turns the ones being hurt and the ones doing the hurting as well as rendering the nuanced connections between family members, friends, and acquaintances. This is a remarkable and layered novel, one that struck me for its prose, its sense of place and time, its characters, and its themes. The Dove in the Belly is a heart-wrenching yet ultimately luminous novel, one that I can't wait to re-experience. ɴʙ if I had to use one word to describe this book it would be ‘struggente’, which can be translated as 1. entailing or revealing an inner torment; melting, tender, moving, aching, painful, heart-rending. Or if I had to describe this book with a quote I would turn to Dorothy Strachey's Olivia: “And so that was what love led to. To wound and be wounded ”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jonny Carmack

    Easiest 5 stars I have ever given. Fuck I am a wreck Okay so I haven’t heard a single thing about this book before stumbling across it at the store. The title is really what grabbed me originally and I’m so glad it did. I find it incredibly interesting that there are no blurbs on the book, no real marketing behind it and there was only a single copy at the store in the new release section. Why?? I haven’t even seen this book on any queer book lists online. I initially started this book on audio and Easiest 5 stars I have ever given. Fuck I am a wreck Okay so I haven’t heard a single thing about this book before stumbling across it at the store. The title is really what grabbed me originally and I’m so glad it did. I find it incredibly interesting that there are no blurbs on the book, no real marketing behind it and there was only a single copy at the store in the new release section. Why?? I haven’t even seen this book on any queer book lists online. I initially started this book on audio and within an hour of listening went back to the store to purchase the hardback as well. I knew I would want to own this masterpiece. Let’s start here: the writing. It’s excellent. There are so many quotes in this book that truly blew me away and made me really think about what the author was saying and portraying through the use of language. There is a depth within these pages that really hit home for me. The characters: My god. The two main characters in this novel truly took my breath away. The dynamic between these two young men is so fucking real it made my heart ache. This whole novel is really a character study and to be honest I feel changed after reading it. I want these two to live on and on in my head forever. They feel so real. The tone: The whole tone of this book is so beyond fragile it had me in tears multiple times. With such intricate and human themes going on here there was no way I wasn’t going to feel these things deeply. The author expertly explores gay love, death, family relationships, self harm, toxic masculinity etc. these things were all handled in such a caring manner. Final thoughts: I adore this so much. I literally want to keep this book on display in my house that’s how much I don’t wanna let these characters go. I feel connected and attached to them. I also love that this novel was about gay love decades ago but had VERY LITTLE to do with religion. The author made a choice to not gay bash these characters or put them in a church setting and I really loved that. It is so refreshing to read a story that takes place in the past that doesn’t marry homosexuality to shame or religion. Brilliant. Okay - I’m going to stop raving and just think everyone should read this. I don’t know how any other book could beat this in 2022. I want to shout my love for this story from the rooftops.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Uma Dwivedi

    i am just thinking about how tenderness is gentleness and love but to tenderize meat is to brutalize it until it gives under your hand.

  4. 4 out of 5

    cam

    o boy, this book is marvelous. i struggled to get my footing in the beginning, but once i got it, it had me. there's a looseness to its genre where it's got the beats of a romance novel but the voice and the tone of literary fiction and it's got this insane undertow to it, where the chemistry between the main character ben and ronny is working on you but so is the poetry of the narration. the movie it reminded me of was "god's own country" (banger of a film). not just because it was gay, but als o boy, this book is marvelous. i struggled to get my footing in the beginning, but once i got it, it had me. there's a looseness to its genre where it's got the beats of a romance novel but the voice and the tone of literary fiction and it's got this insane undertow to it, where the chemistry between the main character ben and ronny is working on you but so is the poetry of the narration. the movie it reminded me of was "god's own country" (banger of a film). not just because it was gay, but also of the push and pull, the play of brutality and tenderness between the characters. i'm not an angst girl but in this package, the yearning, the pining, the torment of it all just consumed me. adored. somebody call me to talk about this book! read it! let it just take you away!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    help i've fallen and I can't get up help i've fallen and I can't get up

  6. 4 out of 5

    PaperMoon

    It's been such a long time since I read a Grimsley title and experiencing pleasure in his beautifully crafted almost poetic descriptive passages. This book is above love .. the many ways to describe love. The fragility, the wonder and beauty of, the fear of the loss of love ... and the bitterness that comes with losing love. For those who don't mind a good dose of sturm und drang in their M-M romances - this book is for you. Albeit, quite a lot of that comes from MC Ronny's own insecurities and It's been such a long time since I read a Grimsley title and experiencing pleasure in his beautifully crafted almost poetic descriptive passages. This book is above love .. the many ways to describe love. The fragility, the wonder and beauty of, the fear of the loss of love ... and the bitterness that comes with losing love. For those who don't mind a good dose of sturm und drang in their M-M romances - this book is for you. Albeit, quite a lot of that comes from MC Ronny's own insecurities and fears but to be fair - MC Ben does not present as a good romantic prospect for the first half of the book. I guess the wonder comes with the gradual / subtle changes in Ben (who has to go through some refining fires of life) to come through as someone deserving of Ronny's love in the end. There may also be some who feel Ronny should have grown a spine much earlier and walked away ... but who can predict the vagaries of the heart? Sometimes - a heart wants what it wants ... come what may. Mr Grimsley's books aren't always guaranteed a HEA but that goodness this one comes through with an ending that gladdened my heart as Comfort and Joy (one of my all-time favs). 5 solid stars!

  7. 4 out of 5

    ivanareadsalot

    I devoured this book in one sitting. From the very first page I was hooked to this atmospheric, immersive, evocative and heartfelt love story. Wonderful, resonating work by Grimsley that has me all up in my feelings right now so this is less a review and more of a shaky sigh, with tears on the horizon. I adored this book; its characters, the language, the cadence, everything, but especially the unfolding of the fragile, beautiful love story at the heart of it all. Ronny and Ben's journey will st I devoured this book in one sitting. From the very first page I was hooked to this atmospheric, immersive, evocative and heartfelt love story. Wonderful, resonating work by Grimsley that has me all up in my feelings right now so this is less a review and more of a shaky sigh, with tears on the horizon. I adored this book; its characters, the language, the cadence, everything, but especially the unfolding of the fragile, beautiful love story at the heart of it all. Ronny and Ben's journey will stay with me for a while, I think. And maybe after I mull this book over a bit I will have more to say in the future. But for now 5 stars will have to do.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    This book is beautiful and it defies categorization. There is romance in "The Dove in the Belly" of the rough-edged, unfinished, youthful kind. The voices of the characters were the voice of young men I once went to school with and I was immediately taken back in time. This isn't really a romance, although there are aspects of love and the blossoming of a relationship. This book reads as though it's destined to become a literary classic. It is poetic and smooth and runs the gamut from the initial This book is beautiful and it defies categorization. There is romance in "The Dove in the Belly" of the rough-edged, unfinished, youthful kind. The voices of the characters were the voice of young men I once went to school with and I was immediately taken back in time. This isn't really a romance, although there are aspects of love and the blossoming of a relationship. This book reads as though it's destined to become a literary classic. It is poetic and smooth and runs the gamut from the initial flutterings of that dove in the belly to the brazen first chances that are taken. This story is about two young men who are very different from one another but manage to find a meeting place somewhere between their two worlds. Ben is a football player, well built, and a jock with mouthy, bullish friends. Ronny is slight, creative, a soft-spoken intellectual and gentle and has just been abandoned by his mother ... again. There is a very slow growth of friendship between these two characters. It is simple at times, complex at others but always engaging. The progression of the characters crept up on me and I found myself wondering what would happen to each of them. I cared about them both in quite different ways. When Ben reveals to Ronny that his mother has cancer and is receiving devastating treatment, their friendship shifts again. Ronny is able to provide Ben with support without really even understanding what he is doing. I loved the way that Grimsley wrote the interactions between Ben and his family and the way that Ronny seeped into their lives without creating the slightest ripple. This novel is destined to become a favourite for many readers. I know that it's going to make its way to my shelf and will be picked up more than once.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Charley

    Wow, what a beautiful novel. Different in tone from earlier Grimsley works (e.g. Dream Boy and Comfort and Joy), which were, let’s be frank, pretty bleak, it has a dreamy, impressionistic quality. It’s easy to read but the ease of language is deceptive. This is a book that resonates inside you after reading. The setting is a university campus (North Carolina) in the late 70s. Ronny is a young gay man who studies hard and helps the jocks with their homework. Despite how that description sounds, th Wow, what a beautiful novel. Different in tone from earlier Grimsley works (e.g. Dream Boy and Comfort and Joy), which were, let’s be frank, pretty bleak, it has a dreamy, impressionistic quality. It’s easy to read but the ease of language is deceptive. This is a book that resonates inside you after reading. The setting is a university campus (North Carolina) in the late 70s. Ronny is a young gay man who studies hard and helps the jocks with their homework. Despite how that description sounds, this is literary fiction, not the start of a piece of erotica, and Grimsley slowly builds a rendering of Ronny’s feelings for, and burgeoning connection with, a handsome football player, Ben. Ronny himself is slight and airy; at the start of the book, he moves around the campus almost wraithlike. He’s not sure who he is, what he wants, or where he’s going – and neither, we discover, does Ben. Indistinct is a word that comes to mind a lot when reflecting on this story. The style of the writing is often deliberately foggy, with half sentences and beautiful impressions building layers of partial meaning as it goes along. We’re never given a clear, distinct picture, something that's reflected in the character of Miss Delacy, Ronny’s landlady at his student boarding house, who’s growing older and frailer, peering out at the world through her thick-lensed glasses. I guess this is a good metaphor for the fuzzy unknowability of relationships and self-realisation. Ronny and Ben don’t know what love and sex and intimacy really mean, partly because they’re young and (in Ben’s case, possibly) gay, but also because they’re just human. Grimsley extrapolates the specific out to the universal, something often missing in contemporary focus on the particularity of marginalised experience. If you're interested in representations of masculinity, we glimpse Ben’s struggle with what it means to be a man or male through the love-struck eyes of Ronny. Ben needs time to get drunk and trash things with his jock buddies, sleep with girls, and play a lot of football. We see that he cannot function without these elements, especially when stressful or upsetting events occur in his life. He has a level of self-knowledge about this, but he needs to learn how to reconcile those elements of himself with his sexual and romantic feelings for Ronny. Older women at the end of their lives also play a large part in this novel. Ben’s mother is seriously ill with cancer. Miss Delacy is slipping towards dementia and decline. It made me wonder if Grimsley himself has experienced the death of an elderly mother or similar, because his portraits of both women are gentle and perceptive (as well as poignant). Actually, his younger women are too. Despite the jealousies that Ronny experiences over Ben’s relationships with various female students, the authorial voice is never misogynistic or disrespectful, and his female characters are nuanced and real – with senses of humour and passions for Toni Morrison and other sorts of feminism. Throughout the book, I felt all the agonies and blind emotions of Ronny’s love for Ben. I was there with him, apprehending Ben’s words and actions as frequently mysterious and illogical. I was never sure how it would end, and I won’t say now, to avoid spoilers. Only that the book never gives us any reassurances about how things will turn out in their relationship, because this is life and love. No one ever knows, even if you’ve been with someone for years and years. Ain’t that the truth.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Literally the only thing I can fault with this book is the copy-editing: there are a few too many typos -- a missing article, an incorrect pronoun, that sort of thing -- in a formally published book. That said, though, the book itself (as a physical artifact) is breathtakingly beautiful. The hardcover feels sturdy in your hands, the book without the dust jacket has the same beautiful cover on it, the paper is thick, the binding is stitched and solid. It's really great. And the book, too, is wonde Literally the only thing I can fault with this book is the copy-editing: there are a few too many typos -- a missing article, an incorrect pronoun, that sort of thing -- in a formally published book. That said, though, the book itself (as a physical artifact) is breathtakingly beautiful. The hardcover feels sturdy in your hands, the book without the dust jacket has the same beautiful cover on it, the paper is thick, the binding is stitched and solid. It's really great. And the book, too, is wonderful. The feelings! Oh, the feelings! The insight during the sex scenes, the way the characters act so crazily and yet so.... understandably... it's really amazing, to be able to walk that tightrope and get to the other end successfully. (Great job, Jim!) There are literally four words in the last paragraph that concern me, but that's because I don't like ambiguity. Just four words! But that's just me. Read it at once! Oh, also, as I am a writer, this is *exactly* the kind of book I want to write (and never will because I'm too afraid to try). But for those who are interested in craft... pay attention to his dialogue and everything said through unsaying. It's like a master class.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Raaven

    Excuse me while I sob. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It felt so raw and beautiful and real. I went through every single emotion reading this and the final one I had was pure happiness. I’m so glad I picked this up. I’ve never had a book make me cry so much before. My heart is so full.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alex Jiménez

    this book. This Book! where to even begin! i started this and finished it easily in a few nonconsecutive hours. it was a little overwritten at parts, as Literary Fiction™ tends to be, but i was so invested in the romance that it didn’t matter. i had to break up my reading of this a lot as i was reading it while my students were testing and then i had plans in the evening, but whenever i wasn’t reading it, i was thinking about it. this is one of those books that just makes you so wholly believe i this book. This Book! where to even begin! i started this and finished it easily in a few nonconsecutive hours. it was a little overwritten at parts, as Literary Fiction™ tends to be, but i was so invested in the romance that it didn’t matter. i had to break up my reading of this a lot as i was reading it while my students were testing and then i had plans in the evening, but whenever i wasn’t reading it, i was thinking about it. this is one of those books that just makes you so wholly believe in love. it’s not a romance novel, it’s “more” than that, but honestly i’d still classify it as at least having a foot in the romance genre. i just so wholly believed that ronny and ben were in love. the romantic moments between them were so tender. i was swooning in public trying to keep a straight face (my mask helped a lot). i thought it was really impressive that the author only took about 80/~320 pages to get to them Getting Physical and yet the payoff was fantastic. like i said, it was just so easy to believe that these two boys were in love. some interactions with side characters could’ve been done away with, but honestly they weren’t all unnecessary. i really enjoyed ronny’s interactions with ben’s sister, nina. i thought it really added to the narrative. overall this entire novel is a wonderful exercise in showing just the precise moments that you need to build momentum, and almost nothing more. it would make a great study for a novel writing class. i really loved this book. i didn’t like the author’s most popular novel dream boy at all back in the day (i read it several years ago when i was in high school) but thought i’d give this a chance since it seemed so different and i’m so glad i did! if you are a fan of writers like garth greenwell, brandon taylor, philippe besson, michael cunningham, and michael chabon, this novel is well worthy to stand up to other queer contemporary lit by authors like the ones i mentioned. AND: (spoiler alert?) it doesn’t have a tragic ending! that’s my favorite thing about it other than the tender romance. i highly recommend this book!

  13. 5 out of 5

    BookBagDC

    This is a story about the highs and lows of first love.  Ronny is a student at the University of North Carolina in 1977.  He has a few friends and has found a home of sorts working at the school newspaper, but he has largely kept to himself as he navigates dorm life as a gay man.  Ronny finds himself strongly drawn to Ben, who is opposite in many ways -- at college on a football scholarship, often gregarious and also quick to anger, and with a series of girlfriends.   Ronny knows nothing can come This is a story about the highs and lows of first love.  Ronny is a student at the University of North Carolina in 1977.  He has a few friends and has found a home of sorts working at the school newspaper, but he has largely kept to himself as he navigates dorm life as a gay man.  Ronny finds himself strongly drawn to Ben, who is opposite in many ways -- at college on a football scholarship, often gregarious and also quick to anger, and with a series of girlfriends.   Ronny knows nothing can come of it, but he can't help but notice that Ben keeps finding ways to connect with Ronny, even if it is often just to tease him or ask him for help with school works.  When Ronny's mother moves to Las Vegas to marry her latest husband, depriving Ronny of his summer housing, he finds a room in a boarding house in town -- a room that soon becomes a refuge not just for him, but for Ben as well as he deals with his mother's advancing cancer.  Within the room and the bubble they create for themselves, their connection advances to a new level, but to Ronny it always feels tenuous — and all the more so when they are forced to venture out of it. This is a powerful book.  The author captures the often confusing and emotionally fraught time of college and deftly portrays what that experience was like in the late 1970s for a gay man in the South.  The author makes the reader feel acutely what the push and pull of Ronny and Ben's connection is like, as they navigate their strong but often confusing feelings, their frequently fraught and oblique ways of communicating, and the dynamics of their classmates, friends, family, and society.  The book also is an insightful examination of different types of families, especially parent-child relationships, and the impacts of grief. Strongly recommended!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Valentina

    Cold hot wind blowing through me, feeling of falling any time I’m next to him, feel like I am coming apart sometimes, feel like the sun is on me even at midnight, feel like midnight even at noon.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Neil Czeszejko

    A moment of happiness could feel almost like a wound.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Warren Rochelle

    Ronny and Ben are unlikely lovers. They met their junior year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the mid-1970s. By happenstance, they are living in the same dorm, Ehringhaus, the dorm that houses a good many Carolina athletes. Ben is at Carolina on a football scholarship, and he is big and solid and confident. He walks with an "easy jock swagger," and "has a steady stream of girlfriends" (front cover). He has been redshirted and needs to get his grades up, and finish incomplet Ronny and Ben are unlikely lovers. They met their junior year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the mid-1970s. By happenstance, they are living in the same dorm, Ehringhaus, the dorm that houses a good many Carolina athletes. Ben is at Carolina on a football scholarship, and he is big and solid and confident. He walks with an "easy jock swagger," and "has a steady stream of girlfriends" (front cover). He has been redshirted and needs to get his grades up, and finish incompletes. Ronny, also on a scholarship, is small and slight, an English major, and he works for the campus paper, The Daily Tar Heel. Ronny is keeping a secret: he's gay. Nicknamed "Brainhead" and "Egghead" by the jock bros, Ronny becomes Ben's "pet tutor." So their relationship begins. They connect in their own bubble, which is "as surprising to Ronny as it is to Ben. Within in [the bubble] their connection ignites physically and emotionally" (front cover). They are tested. Ronny's mother has found her latest husband and moved to Las Vegas, leaving him homeless. Ben's mother is struggling with cancer. Ben lives in a world that assumes he is straight. Is their bubble strong enough? Their connection? Are they strong enough, brave enough? Beautifully written by one of my favorite authors, this love story moved me a great deal, with its truthful and honest portrayal of love tested by grief, tested by the world. Recommended.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Honest review...I loved the beginning because (though I was in college over a decade after) this really reminded me of my Freshmen year. Halfway through, I felt the narrative really lost it's way. Near the end...I felt the novel was trying to close a story that had no close in an overly happy way. (I should have better words for this since I write book reviews and this is so close to MY story...I do not) I think this is a beautiful book but I am just not sure it sets well with me. Honest review...I loved the beginning because (though I was in college over a decade after) this really reminded me of my Freshmen year. Halfway through, I felt the narrative really lost it's way. Near the end...I felt the novel was trying to close a story that had no close in an overly happy way. (I should have better words for this since I write book reviews and this is so close to MY story...I do not) I think this is a beautiful book but I am just not sure it sets well with me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eve

    honestly after Dream Boy, every time I read a Jim Grimsley novel, I am preparing for heartbreak. I didn’t read anything or any review before I started it. Like many of the Grimsley’s stories, it’s about self discovery, the messiness of youth and life and relationships. Not knowing who you are and if your feelings are reciprocated. I take that self discovery journey with Ronny, second guessing Ben’s words and actions with him, worry for him and with him, cheer for him. What a journey it is. this o honestly after Dream Boy, every time I read a Jim Grimsley novel, I am preparing for heartbreak. I didn’t read anything or any review before I started it. Like many of the Grimsley’s stories, it’s about self discovery, the messiness of youth and life and relationships. Not knowing who you are and if your feelings are reciprocated. I take that self discovery journey with Ronny, second guessing Ben’s words and actions with him, worry for him and with him, cheer for him. What a journey it is. this one is definitely a keeper. It’s been a while since I couldn’t put a book down and think about characters all the time.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Yar

    I didn’t enjoy the writing style, and at times I was very confused (chronologically-wise.) Am I just stupid? I also felt that the dialogue wasn’t all that believable but I loved the sense of yearning.. the slow burn, which is what I wanted.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Andria Hall

    More like 3.5, but I boosted it .5 for the ending. There are some really beautiful lines in this book, and some confusing (at least for me) dialogue. Themes of toxic masculinity and internalized homophobia are really present in this book (it is a love story between two men set in the ‘70s).

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elisa

    5 stars for the atmosphere the author's been able to recreate in this book. 5 stars for the atmosphere the author's been able to recreate in this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robert Fontenot

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway but it has yet to show up and Goodreads won't stop asking me what I thought about it. I will revise this review when and if it ever shows up. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway but it has yet to show up and Goodreads won't stop asking me what I thought about it. I will revise this review when and if it ever shows up.

  23. 5 out of 5

    bryn

    I love Ronny and Ben so much.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Wonderfully written

  25. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    Here is a romance told with the verve of Sarah Dessen on a summer crush, a coming-of-age story described in the evocative, poetic prose of Thomas Wolfe on the turning of the seasons. It's two college boys in the 1970's, when the boys (and the campus, and society as a whole) are figuring out what a love story of two boys even is, and hasn't been told yet in the books and culture like it has today. Beautifully written, with all the elements you expect in old-school Southern fiction but on a topic Here is a romance told with the verve of Sarah Dessen on a summer crush, a coming-of-age story described in the evocative, poetic prose of Thomas Wolfe on the turning of the seasons. It's two college boys in the 1970's, when the boys (and the campus, and society as a whole) are figuring out what a love story of two boys even is, and hasn't been told yet in the books and culture like it has today. Beautifully written, with all the elements you expect in old-school Southern fiction but on a topic that needs more representation in the canon.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Long

  27. 5 out of 5

    Martin

  28. 4 out of 5

    T

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  30. 5 out of 5

    Liv Bahner

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