Small Wonders, is really about nothing, nothing at all, yet encompasses everything that matters

This is a review of Small Wonders, but there’s a bit of a story on how I got to find this book, so please, indulge me. I am a storyteller, after all… Picture a room where small indie and niche publishers sell their wares to a group of three hundred and fifty something readers of LGBT literature. Next to my publisher’s table sat the representative of a publisher I’d never heard of, Interlude Press, and they had some of the prettiest covers I’d ever seen on books. Literary covers, not at all the run of the mill naked, headless torsos that are so commonly associated with gay books. No, these were some really nice books. I picked up a business card, a discount code, spoke to the rep during the long customer-less stretches and forgot about them when I came home. Before Christmas, I wanted to pick up some reading materials, remembered Interlude, and bought three of the books I’d fallen for, or covers to be more exact.

Small Wonders, by Courtney Cox

Isn’t this a gorgeous cover? I don’t know about you, but I’m so over naked people on book covers… (hence my thorny ones.) Small Wonders, by Courtney Cox

I’ve just read the first of those books, Small Wonders, with a water color painted cover depicting the hero, Trip Morgan, with his guitar, in Central Park, as he watches over a group of tourists. I just finished reading Small Wonders. The salt of dried tears is itching like crazy on my cheeks, and my eyes feel as red as they probably look. I cried a lot reading this book. But it took me a long time to actually get into it.

Three-hundred and sixty pages on my iPhone 6+ to be exact. Not sure how many pages that would be on Amazon’s normalized page count or in the paperback version, but it’s somewhere in chapter 11. 367 is a long time to get me hooked on a book, and I just needed to warn you.

You better be patient. Courtney Lux doesn’t reward you easily, but she will. This is a literary romance novel. It’s about nothing, nothing at all, yet covers everything essential, and just as Trip finds the meaning of life in a discarded vacation photograph, so will you, at the end of the story. There is no drama, no gun shots, no diseases, nothing of the sort. It’s a story about everyday life as we all know it, making ends meet, water heater not working, electricity being cut for not having paid the invoice, being dumped by your boyfriend, losing your job, getting your stuff pawned. In a four letter word? L.I.F.E.

Life in New York to be more specific.

Young Trip Morgan is playing the guitar for a living and, every now and then, supplements his meager income pick-pocketing tourists when he meets Nathaniel (I’ll resist calling him Nate. After all, he’s the one who made me cry on page 367. Just you and I Trip, okay?) From then on, I was so hooked and got so absorbed by the story that I read the rest in one go. But I’ll have you know that by page 50 I was ready to give up, and by page 100 I was skimming pages to get on. It’s the curse of the literary, the endless descriptions of things, or seemingly (!) irrelevant tasks, happenings. It does get tedious at times, but then again, anyone remember reading James Joyce‘s Ulysses? I do, and there were NO redeeming qualities there, I’m afraid. It was about nothing, nothing at all, and a complete waste of two perfectly good days to read through that “landmark” piece of world literature. Just saying. I think Ms Lux does just fine, in hindsight, balancing the nothing with the everything. Because in the end, when we leave Nathaniel and Trip, we’ve learned a valuable lesson about life, about the preciousness of nothingness, the joy of a simple moment in time, to be accepted for who we are, as we are, without any pretense, no bullshit.

You know, I can absolutely picture Trip sitting here, in the dead of the winter, in his hoodie, playing tune for the tourists. And I could feel the cold through the pages! Photo: Private.

You know, I can absolutely picture Trip sitting here, in the dead of the winter, in his hoodie, playing tune for the tourists. And I could feel the cold through the pages! Bonus points if you spot me pushing my son’s stroller, not the book’s June in the picture… 😉 Photo: Private.

Ms Lux weaves a clever story, using flashbacks of Trip’s youth (from his notebook?), short chapters where we get a glance in first person from the man himself, alternating those with third person narrative of the actual story playing out in New York. The characters are believable, flesh and blood, and given recent events, I can’t help but see a bit of David Bowie reflected in Trip’s face. I guess it’s the two differently colored eyes, but I can’t picture Trip otherwise. I have a clear picture of Nathaniel on my retina, as well as of the other members of Trip’s small circle of friends, and I see the apartment, Trip’s closet bedroom. I see it all, as vividly as if I was standing right smack in the middle of the rooms, watching the characters. I feel the emptiness of Nathaniel at the beginning, I feel Trip’s frustration with Nathaniel’s neatness, etc. The writing is really excellent, all the way through. I just wish I had been able to emotionally connect to the story sooner than page 367. I mean I had a hunch it would go that way, it usually does, but I was still surprised by Nathaniel’s timing, and the sincerity with which he spoke those three simple words that broke my dam: “I love you.” Mind you, a simple dot, not an exclamation mark. A simple enough statement. But that’s where Courtney and I finally connected, through that sentence and the paragraph preceding it. It’s where the literary became tangible, existential, where the pretty words suddenly carried a whole lotta meaning, if you catch my drift! Yes, exclamation mark.

The final two chapters are still about fairly meaning-less things, on the surface, after all, people get evicted all the time, people celebrate birthdays every day, and people move across the country every day. But in describing the mundane, Small Wonders, does its title wonderfully justice, a book about nothing at all, yet wondrously, encapsulating the very essence of humanity, our existence, love, friendships, family, relationships. Small Wonders is a wondrous book, and I think you should give it a chance, patiently!

Small Wonders is available from an amazing new niche publisher, Interlude Press. Check them out! I think they’ve got more than small wonders in store for us readers and lovers of LGBT literature!

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Have a wonderful hump day! 🙂

Hans

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