Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review- Out on the Sound by R. E. Bradshaw

Out On the Sound
By R. E. Bradshaw
Aug 22, 2010
Contemporary/ Lesbian
292 pgs in PB

Buy it Amazon

If you like a good story with laughter, tears and suspense then this is the book for you. In her late thirties, Decky Bradshaw was set for life. She had an incredibly lucky life up to this point, excluding the brief marriage to her son's father. She had a great job, plenty of money and a very comfortable existence. Decky figured if someone ever came along that tickled her fancy she'd know. She never thought for one second it would be a woman. Neither did her mother. Follow Decky as she finds new love and deals with her, "Tennessee Williams in drag," overly dramatic, southern mother, Lizzie, and the hurricane of events she brings.

Where to start, where to start. This was a long, long book. However, I finished it, so that’s a pretty good sign.

I bought this book because it’s a coming out story with older characters. Unfortunately, almost every coming out cliché was in this book. It was almost like a “look at me, I’m so gay” coming out story. And it includes name dropping of almost every well-known gay celebrity, musician and author to make sure that we all know how gay the characters are.

I don’t want to slam this book totally. I liked the author’s voice. The writing itself flowed well. I was able to read it and I did enjoy some of it. But overall it had quite a few flaws for me.

The first issue I had was the unrealistic way in which the women come together. Decky and Charlie meet briefly a few times. Then they get together for one night. It’s Decky’s first time with a woman and the next day, Decky is saying things like:

“well, I guess it’s settled then. We are a couple and I’m out of the closet, ready or not.”

Really? She wasn’t even in the closet. She had never fallen in love with a woman before. And instead of just wondering where she’s at as I suspect a person falling in love with another person of the same sex and having gay sex for the first time would, she knows now she’s actually gay.

The thing is, Decky’s been hanging out with lesbians for years and never once had any attraction or clear idea that she even might be gay. You’d have thought that she would have had some sort of indication before now. So, somehow that didn’t ring true to me. And it took only one night together to start calling themselves a couple, which came off to me as a bit ridiculous.

The only thing that mitigated that was that their relationship does develop through the rest of the book. So while I can’t say this is a romance in the traditional sense due to no romantic build up, from the point they sleep together they really are a couple and there is some romance as they try to figure out their situation.

This book is written in three parts. The first is Decky and Charlie coming together and the shit hitting the fan in their small community where Decky is well known, that she’s suddenly gay. The second part is about some major homophobia in the form of a whack job mother and dickish guys with the whole “we’ll fuck the lesbian” out of you threats and attacks. Then part three is about them getting justice and the whole town rooting for them. It all came across as too over-the-top and like one huge cliché.

One thing that would have helped this book is if it would have been cut down by a third. The author goes on too many unimportant tangents like descriptions of food, preparing food, local history, as well as detailing daily mundane events that bog things down and take away from more exciting or interesting plot points. Maybe some readers would like all those little details, and they are good to a degree, but I did a lot of skimming through those paragraphs.

Then there’s Decky’s mom. She’s written as a raving homophobic lunatic that apparently the whole town knows is “eccentric” but doesn’t seem to mind. Apparently she has a lot of influence and inspires fear in anyone who dares to oppose her. I think the author was trying for some humor there, but it didn’t cut if for me if that’s the case. Lizzie is crazy. And the fact that she sits on the board of the local university that Charlie has come to teach at and that she is a community leader to some degree had me wondering. If she’s that whacked and unstable, why would she have any position of power in that community? She’s essentially just a bully. It is explained away as a bi-polar condition but her characterization came across as more cunning than having a mental disability.

Moreover, she’s soooo over the top homophobic as to be a caricature. I know people like that exist. And for all I know it’s an actual description of someone the author knows. However, a Westboro Church member, which is pretty much the extreme out there, doesn’t hold a candle to how homophobic Lizzie came across. So, no, she wasn’t just an eccentric character that people would laugh off, or even one that I would think Decky would stick around to get berated for on a regular basis. But that’s me.

Also unrealistic is Charlie defending her at the end. At that point Lizzie comes across then as a poor misunderstood grump. So not how she’s characterized.

The best part of this story was the trial, the last part. And I only got excited because there were some elements of surprise and mystery in how it was written. How Molly, their lawyer, builds the case and breaks down the prosecutor’s case was pretty entertaining. Enough so that my brain finally got engaged, because until then it was like a run on story.

I might try another book of R.E Bradshaw’s. This was her first book and maybe the whole, “isn’t it so exciting that I’m gay now” will not be the focus, but just the two characters and who they are will come out and shine.

Heat level: 1- not erotic- sexual scenarios mostly hinted at.

Grade: D+


Cathy in AK said...

I haven't read Bradshaw, but then I'm not a big reader of contemporaries. I've heard good things about her, however, so if you find one or two that float your boat, be sure to let us know :)

LVLM(Leah) said...

I've heard that Waking Up Gray is pretty good. If I buy another one of her books, I'd get that one.