When you think about it, who else would you trust to write about a faun than Trebor Healey? He has wise and weathered faun eyes, but he keeps his hair short so you can see he has no nubs for horns. More importantly, he looks at the world through faun eyes. And even more importantly than that, he enables us to see what he sees. And Faun is a romp with an eternal feel and a connection to an earthier time.
Puberty has not been good to Gilberto Rubio. Instead of progressing like his classmates, his legs fur up, he gets horn nubs and his genitalia develops freakishly large. And his feet begin changing into hooves. When his friends aren’t abusing him, his anxious mother is ready to push him into the priesthood, driving him away from home. He winds up in L.A., trekking the mountain ranges looking for a mysterious stranger he met online who just might have some answers.
I love that Healey turns the whole faun concept on its head by making his a Latino boy. Healey’s love of the culture seeps in and gives Gilberto an interesting dimension. Racked with Catholic guilt, he’s confused by what’s happening but doesn’t panic. He just seeks answers and does his best to accept himself for what he is. Gil is a terrific protagonist and Healey has inhabited him fully.
Healey’s poetic gifts are evident in his prose, with which he creates a fertile environment for both the commonplace and the unique to happen, as one defines the other. His landscape reeks with the scent of the modern as it encroaches on the ancient, which is the conflict at the center of the book. That the ancient still survives is a testament to the wonder of its tenacity. Is it any wonder that Gilberto learns nothing in the city and everything in the mountains?
The other characters, especially Lupita, Gilberto’s mother, are equally well-drawn and fully-dressed, but Gilberto’s tough vulnerability really overshadows them, and the reader is happiest when Gil’s on stage. Thankfully, he’s on stage a lot. Fantasy? Yes. Moral? Check. Boring? Nope. Not with Healey’s wicked sense of humor and broad slapstick strokes making Gil come with loads large enough to coat a swimming pool and a member that tears more than one pair of Dickies.
Faun is an emotional yet witty read that’s as absurd as it is pointed. And if I ever meet a faun, I’ll bet he looks a lot like Trebor.
©, 2012, Jerry Wheeler