The Heart’s History – Lewis DeSimone (Lethe Press)

Buy it now direct from Lethe Press.

Some books are loud and abrasive, demanding your attention
as they exhaust it. Others work their charms with subtlety and nuance,
finishing just as memorably—if not more so—than those that scream their premises.
Lewis DeSimone proves himself a master of the quiet approach with his latest
release, The Heart’s History.

Ostensibly, this is the story of Edward and his younger
lover Robert and how a group of Edward’s long-time friends cope with his
illness and death from AIDS, seeking to understand a multi-faceted man who has
only shown parts of himself. In a larger sense, The Heart’s History
takes on the more universal topics of settling down, settling in, the
assimilation of our culture into straight society, and aging gracefully. Or
not.

Complex yet engaging, this story is not plot-driven. Yes,
things happen and there is a story arc. However, suspense is not the reason
these pages seem to turn themselves. The characters are so real that by the
time DeSimone has introduced them all in the opening chapter as they gather at
a Provincetown beachside home, they already seem like old friends. DeSimone
accomplishes this with his uncanny gift for dialogue that sounds spoken instead
of written and an unerring eye for detail. By the time you hit page 32, you
already care about these people—a much more important propellant than plot.

One of those people, Harlan, really stands out. Harlan is
the unrepentant slut of the bunch—a fiercely independent man with a healthy disdain
of straight culture, romance and couplehood. He appreciates the relationship
Edward has with Robert but simply cannot see himself involved in anything
remotely similar. When Sam comes into his life, he acknowledges the importance
of such deep connections but is unable to force himself to forge that bond.

The relationship between Edward and Robert is also important
as it frames the story. We are introduced to Robert in the first chapter, as
are the other friends. Younger than the rest, Robert feels left out and odd at
first, but as the book progresses he develops his own friendships within
Edward’s crowd—especially with Kyle, Edward’s closest friend and the one who’s
always had a secret crush on Edward. Another pairing worth mentioning is
Edward’s friend Greg and Greg’s boyfriend (and later, husband) Victor. Greg has
been out for years, but Victor is only recently out, having been married for a
number of years. Victor’s discomfort at being with obviously gay men is
delicious, especially when he’s being skewered by Harlan, and their exchanges
provide for some of the funniest and most telling dialogue in the book.

But anything I can say about The Heart’s History will
only pale in comparison to the work itself. Genuine, heartfelt and true, this
is a beautiful book that will have you laughing and crying simultaneously.
Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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