Comfort and Joyby Jim Grimsley
Ford McKinney leads a charmed life: he's a young doctor possessing good looks, good breeding, and money. He comes from an old Savannah family where his parents, attentive to his future, focus their energies on finding their sontheir golden boya girl to marry. But how charmed is this life when Ford's own heart suspects that he is not meant to spend
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Ford McKinney leads a charmed life: he's a young doctor possessing good looks, good breeding, and money. He comes from an old Savannah family where his parents, attentive to his future, focus their energies on finding their sontheir golden boya girl to marry. But how charmed is this life when Ford's own heart suspects that he is not meant to spend his life with a woman? His suspicions are confirmed when he meets Dan Crell.
Dan is a quiet man with a great voice. Behind the tempered facade of the shy hospital administrator is a singer who can transform a room with his soaring voice, leaving his listeners in awe and reverence. Ford catches one such Christmas concert and his life is never quite the same; he is touched in a place he keeps hidden, forbidden. When Ford and Dan begin to explore the limits of their relationship, Dan's own secrets are exposedand his mysterious and painful childhood returns to haunt him.
In Comfort and Joy Jim Grimsley finds a marriage between the stark and stunning pain of his prize-winning Winter Birds and the passion of critically acclaimed Dream Boy. In this, his fourth novel, he considers pressing questions. How does a man reconcile the child he was raised to be with the man that he truly is? What happens when an adult has to choose between his parents and a lover?
- Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
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The psychotherapist, a friendly woman with wire-screwy hair that wafted in a cloud around her face, offered her hand at their first session, introduced herself as Shaun Gould, and asked, "Why are you here?"
"My dog died and now I'm so lonely it's driving me crazy."
His directness brought her forward in the chair, and she said, "I'm very sorry you lost your dog. That must have hurt you."
"Did you know you were lonely before the dog died?"
"No. But I know now."
"What do you know about it?" Shaun asked, and the question bore just exactly the right ring of interest, nothing feigned or enacted.
As she listened to his answer, he studied her comforting body, its thick waist and generous curves lounging in the black leather chair. He told her about breaking up with his current girlfriend, and he told about breaking up with the previous girlfriends. Each time he described one of the girlfriends, he got a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, and finally he said, "But that's not what I want to talk about."
"I didn't think it was," Shaun said.
"I want to tell you about Allen," Ford said. "And then I want to tell you about McKenzie."
He expected to tell the story with detachment, but failed. He stopped talking and waited, shivering. Shaun listened with occasional changes of expression, small nods, and careful encouragements for him to continue. He told about [the dog] and McKenzie, and those months in Chapel Hill when he had been with them both. He trembled, but Shaun sat calmly, hands folded in her lap. When he said, "But he never came back to get the dog, and so I kept him," and then fell silent, Shaun sat motionless. Finally nodding once.
"Why did you tell me that?" she asked.
"To tell you something about me."
"What are you telling me?"
"That I must have cared about him a lot."
"That you must have?"
He thought carefully. "That I did. I cared about him. More than I cared about anybody else that I can think of."
Ford visited Shaun once a week for a period of several months. While he declined to discuss these sessions with his parents, they were relieved to note he had regained his weight and color. He slept well, after the first few weeks. Returning to the empty house no longer paralyzed him. Abandoning the image of himself floating above himself, he caressed the physical objects around him, the exquisite antiques that had belonged to his Great-grandmother Bondurant, the Waterford vase full of silk daisies, the stainless frame of the Matisse print over the Victorian sofa.
At the hospital, he proved himself to be a better prospect as a pediatrician than many would have guessed, moving with authority from nursing unit to clinic exam room, charismatic, with a knack for getting along with nurses and ancillary staff. Even after thirty-six- and forty-eight-hour shifts, Ford remained even-tempered and clear-headed, proving his value repeatedly.
"Why do you want to be a doctor?" Shaun asked, in
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Meet the Author
Jim Grimsley is the author of four previous novels, among them Winter Birds, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award; Dream Boy, winner of the GLBTF Book Award for literature; My Drowning, a Lila-Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Award winner; and Comfort and Joy. He lives in Atlanta and teaches at Emory University.
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Comfort and Joy by Jim Grimsley It's 1999. Ford McKinney is a third year Pediatric resident at Emory University. He comes from a Savannah patriarch family along with all the trust funds. The problem is that his well to do family wants him to get married and continue the family line but there is one problem: Ford is gay. Dan Crell is a shy hospital administrator with a painful childhood past. He's a hemophiliac and he's HIV positive. He comes from a broken home and no social pedigree. While on call Christmas Eve, Ford hears Dan singing at the hospital concert and falls in love. Ford has had many sexual relationships, both female and male even live in boyfriends, but not anything that would derail him from fulfilling his family obligations. Or at least, he tells himself that... Dan has a secret past. He was somehow abused by his father, and his mother and stepfather are trying to repair the damage. Dan must constantly deal with the problems of his hemophilia - bleeding to his joints - and on top of that, he sero-converted to HIV positive after one of his many blood transfusions. He has been in love with Ford since Dan first lay eyes on him, while Ford was a medical student. Dan tells Ford on their first date that he's HIV-positive and their relationship is plagued by the "money issue" and their HIV mixed serostatus. However they grow together and deal with their very complicated problems. In the end, they stay together, they are accepted by Dan's family, and rejected by Ford's. Narrated from the third person point of view, Jim Grimsley tells the story of a couple where one person is HIV-positive and the other one is HIV-negative - the sometimes called “serodiscordant” or “mixed serostatus”. With the advent of HIV therapy, HIV isn’t the first topic that comes up when most couples start dating. You may not know the HIV status of your partner. You might not even have been tested yourself. It can be very difficult to talk about HIV status - not the case here, since Dan puts it out there from the start. Unfortunately, Mr. Grimsley narrative is poor. He can't keep the point of view straight, switching sometimes within a sentence. He also has problems with time: choosing to jump back and forth on what could have been an easy tale. The absence of chapters, of logical breaks where either the time or the point of view changes, leaves the reader confused and frustrated. The plot is unfinished: we are not told what happened between Dan and his father.... I detected an apology from Mr. Grimsley in choosing a hemophiliac for the HIV positive character. As if Dan would have sero-converted in any other way would make him less of a person.... The GLBTQ community needs more serodiscordant love tales, however, this one left me wanting....
Consider the beauty of simplicity: a seashell; a marble or jade egg; Monet's Water Lilies; a beautifully-written story of two men fighting to love each other when most everyone around them says "no." As all who read my comments know, hyperbole and I are old friends. Yet, with Comfort & Joy, I again find myself straining for superlatives to direct at both a story as well as a writer with whom I've fallen in crazy madlove. The story is laid out in the summary, above. You could read that, and know almost everything that happens in this stunning novel. If you were to do that, you would be a fool. My first thought is to go to a comparison of this story to some other, perhaps better-known, novel, but this is a pretty unique story. Not in its basic outline: true love fights against naysayers....will it survive to flourish? It's in the way this story is presented. Shifts-in-time, people we never meet, all work to influence whether this relationship will succeed or falter. The overarching conceit of this novel is that this is a story of people born and bred in the South. There is a mindset, a way of life there that is totally unique to that area, especially the Eastern Seaboard cities of the Old South. Like the British class system, these people continue to inculcate their young with a way of living that should, by all rights, have been swept away a century or two ago. Unfortunately, for Ford and Dan, they are children of the South and all that that birthright entails. Especially when one of them, Ford, is a member of the "privileged class" of the Southern Old Guard. But against all this negativism is a story that will, I'm absolutely sure, rank amongst the greatest m/m love stories current or yet to be. This book is sheerest poetry, its language is shimmeringly beautiful and, yet, it manages to say everything in plain "American speak." I remain boggled at Grimsley's ability to transmute the dross that remains so much a part of Southern life into the most shining gold. Like, "Ethan, Who Loved Carter", "A Note in the Margin", "The Charioteer", and "Dancer From the Dance", this is a tale that only could flourish in our era, yet still manages to exist within the geography and time period in which it's placed. This novel is crazy great. Read it!
I absolutely ENJOYED this book. I was very impressed with the emotional dynamic level Grimsley took with this novel. Many try to attain such a level but fail miserably (I wont name names). I hope there's a sequel. I would love to know what happens to these two in the future. If not a sequel, then another set of GAY characters that dont fall under the over done gay stereotypes. Bravo Mr. Grimsley!!!
Comfort & Joy was my favorite Jim Grimsley book. Having already read all of his books, this one proved to be very different from the others. It really touched me, not in the Overwhelming-Pity way I felt for the characters in Winter Birds (I couldn't even finish that book the first time I read it, it was so--too--powerful) or Dream Boy, which made me cry, or My Drowning, that had me so mixed up over the ending that I didn't know WHAT to do. This was the first Grimsley book I read that I didn't try to chuck across the room in a fit, crying my eyes out and shouting 'Oh my God!' halfway to death. I ended this book with a smile on my face, and I'm sure you, dear reader, will too. Why? Comfort and Joy was so sweetly written, telling a difficult story about two men from completely different backgrounds--(Ford is a rich gorgeous closet-case doctor, while Dan, an administrator who works at the same hospital where Ford practices, is a talented singer from the backwoods of North Carolina who's HIV-positive and a hemophiliac)--who try to sustain a budding romance while facing obstacles that include Ford's battle with his sexuality, his uptight upbringing, his parents that can't accept his relationship with Dan, and Dan, who has traumas from his past that affect the way he treats Ford and how open he will be with him. So many touching scenes in this book show, however, that despite these obstacles, true love really is the glue that binds people together. The only problem I had with this book, as with the others, was that there was SO MUCH subtlety in the narration that it had me aching for more, like a SEQUEL!! (THAT would be a GOOD idea!) So many things are left to the imagination, and the readers are forced to draw their own conclusions (you'll find out what I mean when you read it--and everyone SHOULD!--I don't want to spoil anything). Nevertheless, Comfort & Joy was a joy to read, though deliberately not comfortable, as there is much tension underlining the characters' behavior towards each other that adds to the realism of the book--I am so sick of mushy-gushy romance where life is perfect and there is no reality to anything. In true life, there are pitfalls and bumps that people must learn to overcome, that make them really appreciate the beauty of being in love with another person, and having them love you back. Comfort & Joy proved this to me. I would recommend this novel to anyone--I enjoyed it THAT much.
A compelling story about two well-realized characters. I enjoyed Winter Birds and Dream Boy, but for me this was the most complete of Grimsley's novels because he provides a penetrating look at two very different families. Both characters, like their families, have their prickly aspects, but their relationship is so well-realized that it is easy to see why they need each other. A very enjoyable read.
I loved Dreamboy so much that I rushed out to get Winterbirds. Winterbirds left me feeling very confused and disappointed. The story was abrupt and did not seem to have an ending. I was very shocked to find that Grimsley picked up Danny's story in Comfort and Joy. I was 18 pages into the book before I realized the Dan was Danny. You do not need to read Winterbirds to enjoy the book, but it explains much of Dan's actions towards Ford and life in general.
Of the many novels I've read, I really can't remember a book where two men's attempt to form a relationship is presented in such a nuanced, complicated, and convincing fashion. The basic plotline doesn't give away how great this book is -- in fact, the plot may sound generic or simplistic (rich, stunning closet case doctor falls for HIV-positive hemophiliac gay man, who comes from trailer park background; oh, and they also deal with their families). What makes the book so fascinating is the range of emotions, desires, multiple layers and styles of communication, as well as fears that are presented in this story. It's a love story without the usual romantic sappiness, rose-tintedness or flights of fancy. It feels 'real' with all its pains, hesitations, fits and starts, and uneasy postponements -- but also with its joys, pleasures, and comforts. In short, it's an abundantly rich book.
I had real problems with this book. This was the first thing that I have ever read by the author, so my comments apply only to this work. The merits earned by the main strength of the book, the depiction of a real, tender relationship, are quickly gobbled up by the main weakpoint of the book, a tendency to border on dialogue and plot conventions found in grocery store romances. I had wanted to give the book only two stars, but there was a great scene where they ate chicken. I love chicken.
Having read other Jim Grimsley books in the past I thought I knew what to expect with Comfort and Joy. Instead I found a book filled with incredible scenes of romance and hope. Grimsley's writings put the writer into the story and will never let you go even after you are finished.
I am a past admirer of Jim Grimsley' work and was eager to delve into his latest, 'Comfort and Joy.' After several pages though, I felt like Grimsley's writing was not up to par--too many hackneyed and trite phrases, too much of the same territory that has been covered better before in other 'coming out' novels. The writer never seemed to find his stride and the story line develops rather dully and predictably. Some scenes are done well, but I when I found myself skimming to get to the end, I know that this book hadn't caught me. Writers don't necessarily get better as they go on; in this case, Grimsley's earlier novels were much better written and conceived. Perhaps this is a case of 'successful writer gets another one published'--even though it should have been tabled or edited much more thoroughly. Try again, Jim.
This book is fabulous! It makes you realize that everyone, no matter what feels alike in some way or another and that we all experience the same emotions. It also makes you question your own sexuality.
I found this novel tedious and predictable, like a prose version of a gay soap opera episode. The author is obviously trying to 'go commercial' but the result is a book, especially some of the dialogue, that makes you laugh when you're not meant to laugh.
It had been a while since I'd picked up a book and absolutly loved it. I read the jacket cover and thought it would be an interesting book. This story really touched me a way no other book has. It takes the reader into the mind of a man who has difficulty coming to terms with his sexuality. I found myself being absolutly angry at Ford's parents who are constantly pressuring him to marry. Even though I had some difficulty reading such discriptive situations between the two men, I found this book wonderful. I'd read it again and again. It has really opened my mind on what homosexuals must encounter in this world. Everyone, go out and pick it up now!
Although this book is full of cliche..(a rich family who can't accept the fact that their golden son is gay, a poor but happy family who only wished for the happiness for their son...sick lover being taken care by a rich, handsome doctor...)...you will not mind these cliches once you begin to read the story......... The one thing that made me love this book is that it touches my heart.....the book reminds me of my own stories: the struggles I went through when I first fell in love with my lover, my own coming out process, coming to term with fact that I am attracted to men and my relationship with my family..... reading the book, I found myself going back through time and reflecting upon the choices I made..and before I knew it, I shed a tear.....
Whew... I was up 'til 4 in the morning finishing this book. Taking us forward in time after the lead character in Winter Birds has grown up and fallen in love, Comfort and Joy is thoroughly engrossing and well worth the cover price.