Reviewed by Steve Lavigne
Sometimes you discover authors in the strangest places, and my first encounter with Jose Luis Seco was in a chat room (I decline to reveal which one). After a visit to his website, Seco was gracious enough to send me a copy of his novel, The Only Sun I Need, which I found to be an enchanting read, perfect for summer at the beach or while commuting to and from work.
Born in Cuba and now residing in New Jersey, the story is told from several different narrative perspectives. Its hero, Jose Lopez is a rising attorney in a New York firm, conflicted about his career and sexual orientation, due, largely to the strict upbringing he and his sister, Margot, received from Dolores, their widowed mother. At a time when they both want to break free and experience the freedom of adulthood, they’re manipulated by a parent critical of their every move, mentally abusing them about her needs as she ages. Readers may be able to this modern day “wicked witch of the West.” (I have a student enduring just such an existence as I write this.)
Dolores refuses to listen as good things begin happening to her children. She won’t take pride in Jose when his boss assigns him to a lawsuit involving his gay son, Tom, a designer who’s been accused of drug trafficking. She won’t support Margot when a man casts a romantic eye in her direction or when she indicates that she wants to attend college. Things start to unravel when Jose’s college roommate, Bob, arrives from Boston with his lover, Rene. A successful surgeon, Rene is a practitioner of Santeria (the Way of the Saints), a faith that holds respect for our ancestors and the spirits among us. Aware of an apparition following Jose, which has manifested itself because of Dolores’ complete disrespect for those around her, Rene helps develop the changes required by all of Seco’s principal characters.
Translated from the Spanish by Aletha Hanna, The Only Sun I Need reads like those romantic gay novels of the 1970s, (remember Gordon Merrick?) but the situations Seco has created with deeply involved plot twists, the emotional awakening of characters and an inevitable, and enjoyable, climax will keep the reader interested, making this a sweetly told and beautifully fashioned romantic novel.
I hope I encounter more writers whose storytelling skills are this good in future chat rooms.
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