The Third Buddha – Jameson Currier (Chelsea Station Editions)

Buy it now from Giovanni’s Room or from our Amazon.com store – The Third Buddha
 

On the surface, the disaster of 9/11 is as far from
Afghanistan dramatically as it is geographically, but in his latest novel The
Third Buddha
, Jameson Currier draws them close with intertwining yet
parallel stories, crossover characters and his most richly detailed writing
yet.

The 9/11 story concerns Ted, a student who drops out of law
school to search for his gay brother, Philip (Pup), presumed dead after the
collapse of the Twin Towers. Also gay, though not yet out, Ted discovers much
about his brother, including his boyfriends and an entire life he’d always
sensed but Pup kept quiet around their family. The Afghanistan story revolves
around broadcast journalist Jim MacTiernan and his lover and partner behind the
camera Ari Sarghello. On assignment, a jeep they are riding in hits a land
mine, killing the other passengers. Dazed and injured, Ari wanders away
suffering from amnesia while Jim is rescued, refusing to leave Afghanistan
until he finds Ari again. Meanwhile, Ari is taken in by an Afghan family and
lives as a native while he tries to recover his memory.

Yes, the plot is complicated. However, Currier never lets
the threads drop or the interest flag. Once you’re inside the story, the twists
and turns are easily followed, and a fair number of these characters are in
both stories—Ari and Pup, for example, had an affair before Ari hooked up with
Jim. Both stories are equally compelling. Ted’s coming out in Chelsea is both
heartwarming and heartbreaking, especially his on again/off again thing with
the self-loathing Rico, who lost his sister in the Twin Towers.

Currier neatly draws parallel portraits of Ted and Ari, both
of whom live the lives of others until they regain footing on more solid
ground. Ted tries to emulate his brother’s gay life, including having a fling
with one of Pup’s old fuckbuddies, while Ari attempts to become part of his
Afghan family living in the mountain caves outside of Bamiyan. He feels a
responsibility to those who saved him, even to the extent of working at an
archeological dig to get money to give to them. Both Ted and Ari explore the
boundaries of these borrowed lives, using what they’ve learned when they find
their own paths—Ted to a normal, grief-free gay life and Ari to his career and
home with Jim.

Currier’s characters are marvelous here, and he has a
terrific eye for telling details that do so much to set scenes. His post 9/11
New York City is jittery and tentative, much like Ted’s relationship to the seedy
Rico, and his Afghanistan is hot, ominous and damaged by war, occupation and
predators. The landscape here is almost a third major character in this story,
shifting and changing on the surface while its cultural bedrock remains
stubbornly stable.

The Third Buddha is as engrossing as it is
detailed, never failing to entertain as it breaks down some pretty large themes
to bite-sized acts of beauty and humanity. It’s a truly memorable journey. 


Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler
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