Finding Home: when home is a hostile place

Finding Home hit home for me, in more ways than one. First of all, to read gay fiction that plays out in my back yard, my home town of Gothenburg? Unheard of. To read a book from a fellow author living in the same town? I was stunned. And to read a story about coming out and finding your way against all odds, well, that wasn’t as remarkable, it’s a basic plot we’ve all read dozens of times before, but the way Ms Novak writes about it, is fresh and it goes straight to that place in our hearts that makes us feel all warm an fuzzy about it. A rare gift, and while Finding Home was the first of Ms Novak’s books I’ve read, I’m currently on her third…

Phetra H Novak's Finding Home

Phetra H Novak’s debut novel Finding Home. The cover was like a home coming, with a bridge I’ve crossed countless times.

I read this book a while ago, before the holidays actually, but never had a chance to review it. The plot, as I said is fairly straight forward, boy meets boy, they fall for each other, shit happens, they separate, and well, it’s romance, so you can be sure there’s a happy ending somewhere, no spoilers. Now as you know by now (and as I keep saying), I’m no fan of classical romance novels, but this was something else entirely. The writing is fresh, and Ms Novak has a way to make emotions feel alive, almost on an empathic level, and well, I’m a sucker for reading books about places I know, so a gay novel about Gothenburg? Duh!

Luca, our main protagonist is an unusual guy and very ordinary. Let me start with the ordinary. He’s in touch with his emotions, a typical Swedish young man, not the alpha male, but a gentle soul wishing no one any harm. I’m sure he’s voting centrist and cares about the environment, sorts out the compostable trash, recycles and yeah, does what all Swedes these days are expected to do. Even gay isn’t a big thing for Luca. And this is where the big BUT, the HOWEVER comes in. His dad does. We’ve all seen them, the alphas, the alpacas of male dominance, complete idiots with little or no regard for anybody’s feelings but their own (Trump anyone?) Luca’s dad is a successful doctor and he runs the household like Mussolini ran Italy. No resistance, or well, it’s futile at best. Men like Luca’s father aren’t common in Sweden these days, but I know enough of them to understand that they exist, and that being a gay son to such a man must be living hell. In fact, it hurts on a physical level. Had Luca been an alpha male, too, he would’ve had no problems, but Luca is a gentle soul, and so he keeps mostly to himself. Until he meets Kai.

The bridge on the cover in an amazing photograph by Erik Söderström. Unbelievable, but this bridge is as old as I am, commissioned in 1967.

The Älvsborg bridge on the cover of Finding Home in an amazing photograph by Erik Söderström. Unbelievable, but this bridge is older than I am, commissioned in 1966.

Now Kai is different, he’s your jock type, a Texan native on an exchange program to Sweden, brought up on a farm by loving parents (as unexpected in Texas as a homophobe in Sweden, but heck, loving families do exist in the ‘Loon Star’ State, I know quite a few myself…) And Kai pursues Luca and they fall in love. The rest I leave to you to read.

What really attracted me about this story was the interaction between Luca and Kai, it’s reality, the simplicity of it. It was very Swedish in a way, how Luca introduced Kai to life around here, how their relationship was very familiar to me. I hope that many Americans (and others) will read this story, and I’d love to hear how you react to it. After all, dating is very different stateside than it is around here. Now I know Ms Novak dislikes writing sex, and so the story is very clean (for lack of a better word), and the sex mostly off page. Fit me perfectly. Yet even the scene I recall, in Kai’s dorm room at the uni (I’ve actually been to such rooms and done the very deed there…) was very well written. Ms Novak has a knack for realism, and that makes her writing so interesting. I hope you’ve read my earlier post on her writing.

Now the real morale of Finding Home is of course that home is where your heart is, and for Luca, that home is Kai, not Gothenburg, not his parent’s fabulous house. That is a lesson we all can learn from.

Finding Home is available on Amazon as e-book. Give it a shot. I have a hunch you’ll like it!

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Have a great hump day, see you Friday with another interesting reader interview. See you then!