GENRE: Gay literary fiction
From acclaimed m/m romance photographer, Dan Skinner, a coming of age tale unfolds against the colorful, stylish, and turbulent backdrop of free love, revolution, and The Beatles.
Two high school boys from different walks of life: Ryan, a handsome athlete, and David, an average joe from a blue collar family, discover their desires, stealing their kisses under the cover of an old oak at night. Their love begins a secret life, hidden from their families, friends, and classmates. As their passion grows, so does the danger of their discovery. Their only hope is to create a separate world where every kiss is a treasure and every moment… memorable.
First love. Secret love. Unforgettable love.
I waited an interminable amount of time before tackling this review, mostly because Memorizing You had prompted ugly crying, that uncontrolled, near-hysteria when something so touches you where you live that it folds itself into your own memories and perceptions, your dreams and your idealized notions of how it was, how you meant it to be. And it wasn’t.
Blending fiction with memoir, Dan Skinner pulls off a masterful feat of storytelling, turning the lens of recall inward as he explores the seminal moments in a young man’s life that redefined how he thought about himself and set him on a path of discovery that will eventually lead to first love, forever love.
The year is 1967, the year of David’s awakening, the year when he realizes he’s not like everyone else. Dan Skinner has an uncanny ability to recreate the essence of a time and place, to capture moments of clarity, and to place his characters solidly within an organic matrix. Back then, it was the small incidentals that mattered: family, friendships, a certain pace to life that made it all seem simple and simplistic, though it was anything but.
David’s family is working class and supportive, Ryan comes from privilege with a father intent on controlling and living through his son’s achievements. Their futures are mapped differently, but not their dreams. As these two young men flourish and grow, they come to terms with their emotions and their sexuality, and it is the tender moments that rise to the forefront. The special times when being together makes them more than the sum of their parts.
The pace to the storytelling is languid, the main characters familiar and endearing, the conflicts minimized yet ever present. Forty years later, what David remembers is how it felt to love. We feel it, too. We bask in that radiance, yet as time passes so does the sense of rightness, to be replaced with the inevitability of impending doom.
The shock of violence, its consequences and the turmoil it unleashes, tear their idyllic lives asunder, and for the remainder of David’s life he will carry the raw wounds of that moment, existing in a world no longer simple, no longer filled with promise. It left me shaken to my core.
David’s memoir takes us on a journey of joy and despair, of longing and fulfillment, and in the end there is hope.
Memorizing You is beautifully written, courageous and gut-wrenchingly authentic to the time and place, and filled with those small moments that will resonate in your heart. This is a book to savor and re-read, with a box of tissues at hand.
Memorizing You is a highly recommended read, FIVE STARS.