Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary LGBTQ story for new-to-me author John Fram. THE BRIGHT LANDS pulls an out gay man back to his conservative east Texas hometown in search of his teen brother, the star quarterback of the high schoo who’s recently gone missing.
Joel Whitley was shamed out of conservative Bentley ten years ago, and while he’s finally made a life for himself as a gay man in New York, his younger brother’s disappearance soon brings him back to a place he thought he’d escaped for good. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s Deputy Starsha Clark stayed in Bentley; Joel’s return brings back painful memories—not to mention questions—about her own missing brother. And in the high school hallways, Dylan’s friends begin to suspect that their classmates know far more than they’re telling the police. Together, these unlikely allies will stir up secrets their town has long tried to ignore, drawing the attention of dangerous men who will stop at nothing to see that their crimes stay buried.
But no one is quite prepared to face the darkness that’s begun to haunt their nightmares, whispering about a place long thought to be nothing but an urban legend: an empty night, a flicker of light on the horizon—The Bright Lands.
Okay, when I picked up this story, it DIDN’T sound like anything paranormal or supernatural was going to happen from the blurb. That is NOT the case, y’all.
Joel Whitley escaped Bentley, Texas right after high school and he’s hardly looked back–not for his mama or his younger half-brother, Dylan. They chat on the phone and stuff, but Joel hates that place, where he was pretty much attacked for being gay, and ohoto evidence of his “depravity” was circulated widely. But, a weird phone call from Dylan rouses Joel from his free-wheeling, occasionally substance-fueled life in Manhattan. And, it gets Joel on a plane to figure out what might be wrong.
In that space, Joel senses the darkness of the town and is frustrated by the lack of assistance when it turns out that Dylan is missing in action, a “fishing trip” to the coast being a ruse for way more dangerous activities. The team seems to have a pact set to confound and confuse any investigations, but the behavior of some of Dylan’s teammates is nothing short of bizarre–if not possessed. Joel’s old friend Starsha, who happens to be a Sheriff’s Deputy is interested in getting to the bottom of this mystery, and her professional duty is rivaled by personal interest–her own brother disappeared in much the same way as Dylan years before.
I will be honest and say this book was not my cuppa. There were a LOT of points-of-view and their points of intersection did not always overlap. That, and the supernatural element was slow to develop, so I couldn’t tell if the heebie-jeebies Joel was sensing were just his own misapprehension, or something “other”. I do not want to spoil wants happening in the story, but I will say that I felt the actual situation in the story seemed to vilify homosexual behavior. That giving in to those “base” urges led to feeding the malevolence that has been growing in influence and power for decades. I get that this is a thriller, but the resolution ended up being violent and unsatisfying for me–again because there was so much negativity that was tied into what was seen by the characters as deviant behavior. Dylan’s story does not end well, and Joel takes it badly–which I did understand. He was sad for his brother and felt guilty for not helping out more. And the whole thing ended sadly and negatively for my understanding.
For people who like horror, thrillers and supernatural reads, this might be the right story for you. Just, do not expect a happy ending.
About the Author:
John Fram is a lapsed Texan and debut author of the supernatural thriller THE BRIGHT LANDS, due out in July 2020 from Hanover Square Press. Josh Malerman, author of Bird Box, describes it as “absolutely enthralling,” Christopher Golden calls it “compelling as hell,” and Edmund White (the one and only) calls it “Gothic, Faulkernian…and very, very sexy.” He’s just grateful a childhood spent playing video games and sweating in tall grass resulted in something worthwhile.
An accidental Manhattanite, he spends his free time practicing yoga, sweating on stationary bikes and gasping in movie theaters. He writes, meditates and reads every day, in that order. Follow his Instagram to see screenshots from old movies and excited posts about whatever book he’s currently loving. Follow my Twitter because apparently we still need one of those. And go to my website, where you can sign up for a monthly newsletter about old movies and exciting books, some of which he’s written.
Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!