23 November 2014

Trapped in Oz by Andrew Grey

 Martin Long has plans and dreams, but they are derailed when his parents move and must sell their house. In need of a place to stay, fast, he answers an ad for a roommate, and even though the house needs work, the owner seems nice so Martin agrees to move in.

Gary Hunter is barely making ends meet, with mysteriously disappearing tips at work and tuition to pay. Disowned by his family and left with a house in need of repair, Gary desperately needs the extra set of hands along with the money.

When Gary confesses that his family disowned him for being gay, Martin makes his own confession that opens a world of possibilities. But Gary has paid a heavy price for being who he is, and Martin’s unwillingness to open up to his family puts strain on the fledgling relationship.
Mr. Grey has been on my to-read list for about a year now and sadly I haven’t had the chance to pick up one of his books. So when the opportunity came up to review Trapped in Oz, I jumped at it. Although it is the third book in the series, it is written as a standalone and seems to be connected to the previous books in the series by the town and the people who live there.

Even though Martin and Gary are both 20 years-old, they have had entirely different life experiences. Gary’s parents disowned him when he came out to them. Fortunately he was already set to start college, so while he had to deal with the emotional upheaval of his family’s bigotry, he at least had a plan in place and his grandmother’s death provided more stability as she left him her house. Gary had to learn the hard way that life isn’t fair and that the very people who should love you unconditionally don’t always live up to your expectations. Gary is a sweet guy, one who keeps getting back up each time life kicks him in the teeth. He wears his heart on his sleeve despite having had it abused before because when he cares for someone he does it with everything he is, which is why his family’s rejection was so painful for him.

Unlike Gary, Martin has only just begun to realize that he’s gay and has only come out to one person; he hasn’t told his parents for fear of rejection. But when his parents have to move for his father to take a promotion, Martin must find a new place to live. Fate and the classifieds lead him to Gary and they quickly discover that being roommates may be just what they need as Martin is quite skilled with household maintenance and willing to help Gary fix up the house in exchange for a reduction on the rent. Once Martin moves in and they get to know each other, they find that they are able to help each other emotionally as well.

I enjoyed watching Gary grow more confident as the book progressed. As much as I hated how he was hurt in the scene when Martin dumped him off his lap to keep his mother from seeing them together, I was happy to see him stick up for himself with Martin. Rather than portraying characters with perfect responses to situations, Mr. Grey creates characters who are real and have real responses. Gary knew that Martin was still coming to terms with his sexuality and needed time to tell his family, but that didn’t make the aforementioned scene hurt any less. There is just the right mix of angst and emotion that make the characters and their reactions authentic. Trapped in Oz was a really good read and I look forward to reading more of Mr. Grey’s writing.
This is the first book I’ve read by Andrew Grey and I will say right now, it won’t be the last. There are good and bad things about this book. Let me start with the good. This is the story of two young men, both with fears of being gay.
Gary has reason for his fears and depression: He came out to his family and they dropped him. His parents won’t even call and his sister only calls when she has to. They won’t let him come home and he’s never even met a pair of nieces. He ‘lucked’ into a home his grandmother left him when she died and is trying to make ends meet by taking on renters to help him pay the taxes on the place.
Martin is two years out of high school and about all he knows is that he’s gay and he wants to leave this tiny town and see the world. Nobody except for one really good friend knows he’s gay and he plans on keeping it that way. But when his folks have an incredible opportunity given to them and they have to move, he finds himself having to move. Meeting Gary is a bit of a relief as they get along, but he knows there’s something different about him.
Let me say that one of my favorite things about this story is how the author had Martin show his doubts. Worried as he was about his parents finding out he was gay, it made sense to me that he wasn’t sure what to do when Gary blurted out that he was. That Martin still persevered to be Gary’s roommate said a lot about his personality.
Mr. Grey (Oh, I don’t know if I can write that without giggling – Maybe I’ll just call him Andrew) has written an incredibly moving story of two men who are trying to find themselves in this conservative little town while at the same time, falling in love. I loved the addition of the story of Gary’s grandmother and how she knew her grandson was gay. Finding out how of all the family she believed in him truly helped him overcome many of his doubts.
The epilogue (which I won’t reveal because it will give the whole thing away) was a wonderful, uplifting end to the book and made the angst I felt while reading totally worth it. I’m not a fan of lots of angst.
The only thing about the book that truly bothered me was that they fell in love so fast. Too fast. I understand it was a short book, but I wish Andrew had put in a few time jumps, it would have made me feel better about their falling in love. With as fast as it happened, it almost felt like they were clinging to each other, rather than truly creating long-lasting feelings. But, like I said – the epilogue made everything a-okay.
The last thing I want to share is a quote from the book – one that I think sums up what so many people don’t understand about homosexuality.
“What you’re saying is that being gay isn’t about fucking guys but about falling in love with them.”
I couldn’t have said it better, Andrew Grey. Brava!
And now, I need to get my hands on the rest of the Tales From Kansas series.


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