Although Message of Love is a continuation of the story begun in the author’s 2011 novel, Every Time I Think of You, it stands on its own without requiring one read them in order.
The story categorizes as New Adult, I suppose, since the two main characters are very much in their salad days — green in judgment, cold in blood — and very new at adulthood. What gives the story its depth isn’t so much their youth and passion, but the dawning adult sensibilities they uncover in themselves, along with the accompanying obligations. Provenzano paints their journey deftly, and it’s a satisfying read to accompany them on it.
Set from 1980 – 1983, at the dawn of the plague, this story of Reid Conniff, the narrator, and Everett Forrester growing toward lasting relationship is set in monthly increments, making its pace realistic, and making time to explore important themes.
Everett is from a wealthy family, and, although wheelchair-bound from a lacrosse accident, carries the largely unexamined sense of entitlement that usually accompanies wealth. He belongs to the college debate club, and excels at rhetoric. Reid is middle-class stock. He’s less social, in fact a bit of an Eeyore and defensive, quick to take offense. This orchestration of characters provides rich soil for development.
The author goes beyond the more familiar questions of fidelity, or whether each is “enough” for the other, or the obstacles created by the erratic volatility of new adult communication skills to explore a fascinating theme of disguise and authenticity. He uses Halloween and attendance at the Rocky Horror Picture Show as a way to illuminate NA self-discovery, as Reid comes to see: “To me, it meant he was just like us, trying to find himself through a series of disguises.”
The themes of parental support and community service are also treated with depth. Reid’s growth into adult relationship with his father is beautiful. Everett and Reid serve at a summer camp for kids in wheelchairs, and their experience is a sharp contrast to the brittle glitter of Everett’s mother’s society fundraising for mobility causes.
Most satisfying of all is how Reid and Everett grow to understand the beauty of what they share in their relationship. Everett’s friend Gerard, the diva of the circle of friends, struggles with his relationship to Everett and Reid as a couple, in behaviors that look to Reid like jealousy. In a moment of undefended candor Gerard talks to Reid:
…and you know, it’s not about him or you. It’s what’s between you, the connection. People can see it, even when you’re trying to act casual. They don’t want you, or him. Well, some do. But I think it’s more… they want that energy, that ungraspable…something between you two.
“Is that love?”
Gerard smiled as he patted my shoulder. “Maybe someday you’ll find out.”
It is exactly Reid and Everett’s growing self-knowledge that drives this story, written with Provenzano’s characteristic intensity, to its satisfying conclusion in a lover’s treasure hunt. When you’re next in the mood for an intelligent, finely-written romantic new adult story that never slips into sentimentality, this is the book you should pick up. Highly recommended.
© 2014 Lloyd A. Meeker