The Art of the Heart (Dan Skinner)





GENRE: Gay literature, coming of age, short story


The heartland of America in 1965 feels like the end of the road for seventeen-year-old Zac Weston. After all, there’s nowhere to go when you’re shy, gay, and a virgin. A natural artist, inspiration strikes in the form of neighbor boy Rory, and Zac’s fantasies spill onto the pages of his notebook. When Zac’s secret is discovered, it might take more than wishes to magically make his world right.


This is a book that quite literally had me enthralled from the first sentence. The prose is elegantly simple, straightforward, evocative, sensual and riveting. The story unfolds in omniscient third, which I will admit, after reading genre fiction, was a stretch to readjust my reader perspective.

This story beautifully captures a time and place, tapping directly into my consciousness, awakening memories, touching all my senses.

It is a coming of age tale, a homage to first love—that very first awareness and the consequences when you are a young boy, a virgin in every sense of the word. It is also a tale of small town America, back when acceptance meant overlooking differences to the point where it breached understanding, slipping into blindness to a boy’s inner turmoil.

Zac was that boy who found refuge from those things he did not understand: why he felt the way he did, the narrowness of his milieu that restricted his choices, and the final inspiration to record his journey, his fantasies, using the graphics arts as his medium for living out his inner landscape.

When Zac’s talent, and his recording of his alternate reality, is discovered, it is his object of obsession and affection, Rory, who recognizes but does not judge.  Zac is proud, terrified, ashamed, hopeful… and what he most wants is something he’s dreamt of for years. But wishing and dreaming, when you live your life with pencil and paper, is nothing like the reality. Zac has no frame of reference until, during the height of a storm, he learns how to turn fantasy into hope.

This is the first work by Dan Skinner that I’ve read. It won’t be the last.

Five stars. Highly recommended read.





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4 responses to “The Art of the Heart (Dan Skinner)

  1. Pingback: Smitten | Love's Last Refuge

  2. Pingback: Smitten: Your Next Great Reads | Love's Last Refuge

  3. Pingback: Smitten: Your Next Great M/M Reads | Love's Last Refuge

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