Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Book Review: First Person Plural

First Person Plural by Andrew W.M. Beierle
Gay Book Reviews/Fiction, Gay Book Reviews/Romance
TITLE: First Person Plural AUTHOR: Andrew W.M. Beierle
ISBN: 978-0-7582-1970-1 PUBLISHER: Kensington Books

Owen and Porter Jamison are conjoined twins inhabiting one body with two heads, one torso, and two very different hearts. As children, they're seen as a single entity ~ Owenandporter, or more often, Porterandowen. As they grow to adulthood, their differences become more pronounced: Porter is outgoing and charismatic while Owen is cerebral and artistic. When Porter becomes a high school jock hero, complete with cheerleader girlfriend, a greater distinction emerges, as Owen gradually comes to realize that he's gay.

I was enthralled with this book after I read the back of the book. The whole idea of conjoined twins with two different sexual orientations was very intriguing, and this book delivered everything I expected and much more. I half-expected and feared this novel would be a comedy like the movie, Stuck on You, but the book treated the subject matter with compassion and honesty that transcended that movie. This novel is a literary masterpiece.

Even though Porter's teenage years are the American dream with him being the school jock dating a cheerleader, Owen's narration describes it in a way that the reader realizes this is not your typical story. Their music career is also a little far-fetched, but the narration keeps it from becoming cliche. Even though it's written from Owen's viewpoint, all the characters are three-dimensional and realistic, breathing individuals, including the minor characters. His narration is always honest.

At times, I forgot that Owen and Porter were conjoined twins because they are painted as two different individuals, but then, the plot reminded me that they were indeed conjoined, and that fact added tension to normal everyday things that I would take for granted. Beierle takes all the characters beyond the stereotypes. For example, Faith is much more than the Southern Baptist wife of Porter. Her emotional struggles with pregnancy, marriage, and Owen's sexuality are realistic and never stereotypical. It would have been easy for Beierle to go with the stereotypes, but he broke away from them until all his characters could walk and talk to the reader like a friend.

This novel is a literary coming-of-age, romance novel, which doesn't fit most labels associated with books. I struggled with putting this book under gay fiction because I didn't want to limit its readership. It's a book we should all read and digest. It has something that all readers could learn and grow from. The novel includes a reading group guide with questions for discussion. I HIGHLY recommend this book for ALL readers.

Review by Fred Towers

Reprinted from Rainbow Reviews

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