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Posted May 24, 2012
There's a certain reason books rise to the top of my to-be-read pile, and it usually involves that moment I sneak a peek and become engrossed. I was caught up in Well With My Soul by the first few pages and from then on, I had to finish.
What Gregory G. Allen weaves through the twenty or so years this book covers, is a unique memoir that's moving, funny, poignant and felt true. As an Arizona native who has spent a good majority of his life reading horror and fantasy, I didn't expect to be so enthralled by Allen's work especially when the genre and location of this book are so outside my norm. However, I felt for the characters, wanted them to succeed or fail, and had trouble putting the book down at night. This is testament to the way Allen pulled me along and held on to me with his effortless writing style.
Posted April 30, 2012
Well With My Soul is the journey of two brothers, one gay, one straight, whose wildly diverging choices lead them back to the arms of family.
Jacob and Noah Garrett are the prodigal son and his resentful brother, who narrate the unfolding of their adult lives in alternating chapters monologue-style. Good-looking, self-indulgent Jacob is their mother’s favorite, despite his abandoning career after career -- and ultimately her -- in an ever-morphing quest for gratification. Reliable, responsible Noah stays home, with her, and in the midst of a quite ordinary life gradually undergoes his own voyage of self-discovery. Their paths shepherd one brother to a fundamentalist pulpit, marriage and children, the other into a genuine awakening into forgiveness, grace and appreciation for family, and reconverge in a homecoming with a decidedly (but not heavy-handed) scriptural underpinning. Allen’s memoir-like debut novel deftly recreates the mindsets and ephemera of settings as extreme as his protagonists, from small-town Tennessee in the 70s to the high-flying days (and nights) of Manhattan’s gay community in the Studio 54 years and the AIDS epidemic that followed. Allen, who is gay, has openly grappled with the self-destructiveness, addictions and early death of his elder straight brother (Proud Pants, 2011). Here he has assigned those demons to the gay protagonist, along with few appealing characteristics beyond physique. Befitting Allen’s background as a playwright, the inner dialogues, recounted conversations and story arc ring true. His characterizations are uniformly compassionate and non-judgmental as well (even Jacob’s, and even those of the zealots who attempt to convert him to heterosexuality). They’re largely believable, too, with the exception of the brothers’ ultimate female allies, particularly the girlfriend who becomes Noah’s wife, and whose occasional too-good-to-be-true responses threaten her status as three-dimensional.
The novel succeeds as both entertainment and wise-hearted social history, conveying the primal power of faith and family (blood and chosen) without preaching.
Posted November 30, 2011
As the title indicates, the evocative "Well With My Soul" journeys into matters of the spirit, asking the central question, "Who are we, at our core--and is that a good place to be???" Following two starkly different brothers, the tale juxtaposes their home life in the rural South with New York and all of the temptations a dazzling city can bring. Author Gregory G. Allen paints a startling portrait of the dark side of that Studio 54 world, with the characters attempting to reconcile who they think they are meant to be with what is truly in their hearts. "Well With My Soul" takes us on a surprising, disturbing, and ultimately rewarding ride as the brothers divergent paths intersect and they attempt to find redemption, both with each other and within themselves. At times humorous, and others heartbreaking, the novel left this reader examining his own path and choices, to make sure that, indeed, all is well with my soul...Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 31, 2011
I have a belief that the best way of explaining almost anything is through contrast. "It's like this, but not like that." This is why my reviews overuse words like but, yet, and however. "Well With My Soul" is a story of contrasts, which lead the reader to a better understanding of many facets of the human condition. Contrast figures into the time the book takes place, from the hedonistic late '70s into the conservative Reagan years, and the geography, from a small, backwoods southern town to New York, the center of the universe.
Most important of all is the contrast between the two brothers who are the dual narrators and protagonists. Through these contrasts, Well With My Soul gives plenty of opportunity to consider such subjects as religion and family, but its most powerful message is to be true to who you are.
**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **
Posted October 7, 2011
"WELL WITH MY SOUL" BY GREGORY G. ALLEN
This story is about two brothers raised by their widowed mother. Jacob and Noah couldn't be more different than if they'd been born to two different sets of parents, and though Jacob is openly homosexual while Noah is straight that's not the only differences between these two young men. Noah is a hard worker, dedicated to taking care of his family while Jacob is more laid back and just takes life as it comes. Still while he loves his brother and has no problem with his life choices, Noah is tired of their mother always comparing him to Jacob as if he's the golden child.
When Jacob decides to move to New York with his partner and Noah stays behind to care for their mother a world of excitement, adventure, and unknown danger opens up for him, but what will it ultimately cost him and what lessons will both brothers learn along the way?
This novel was the perfect view of the life of a homosexual male trying to make it in a world that's hard on everyone, but the temptations can sometimes have a deadly price to pay in the end. It's also the story of brothers and their differences as well as how losing someone you love, someone that has always been there for you and accepted you for who you are, can change your entire life, some changes of which are not always for the better.
The story is wonderfully written and you could feel the character's emotions. It teaches you that changing is not always easy, and at times it is best to be yourself and realize who you are and embrace it rather than try to live a lie. I highly recommend this book, Gregory G. Allen has a way of writing that keeps you interested long after you've finished the book.
Kitty Bullard / Great Minds Think Aloud
Posted October 5, 2011
I have read "Well with My Soul" by this author and I am struck by how well Allen can create characters with such depth. Noah, Jacob, Mama, Gary, etc. are so well written that they could jump off the page and be actual flesh and blood people!
I had also read "Proud Pants" (also by Allen) and although it's a biography and, therefore, the people are/were real, they are still so well written that I felt that I had actually met them.
As a writer myself, I know how difficult it is to create such diverse characters, or character "profiles", as well as giving them their own voices. Allen makes it look easy.
I look forward to his next book with MUCH anticipation!
Posted October 1, 2011
Noah and Jacob are brothers, but they couldn't be more different. Jacob is gay and decides to move to New York with his boyfriend, Gary. He ends up pursuing a modelling career. Unfortunately, the allure of the city leads Jacob to indulge in alcohol, drugs, and unprotected sex. He goes to rehab and emerges...very different. He becomes a minister and marries, having children. However, there is the undertone of deceit about this whole arrangement throughout the book. In a horrible twist of fate, Jacob discovers has has AIDS, which he has transmitted to his wife.
Noah, on the other hand, stayed in their small town. He stays until his mother dies and then leaves on the wave of his successful writing career to go to New York. He is newly married when he finds out about Jacob. The story takes off from here.
The reader will become involved in this book, the characters can make the reader want to throttle them or try to make them make a new decision. The characters are also well-developed, the author lets the reader into their minds. The events are quick, years fly by. The ending is somewhat expected, but satisfying in some ways. This book is recommended to adults.
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Posted September 11, 2011
"A fascinating read - a gripping and ultimately moving story about the undying love of brothers and family that raises our spirits by affirming the power of change in our lives." -Louis Zorich Film/TV/Stage Actor and Author of What Have You Done?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.