What Binds Us, by Larry Benjamin
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date Book: January 1, 2012
Book Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Audio Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Thomas-Edward is only a teenager when he escapes his working-class neighborhood. He’s ready for anything—except the arrival of Donovan Whyte in his life. Sophisticated and dazzlingly handsome, Dondi quickly becomes the center of Thomas-Edward’s universe, introducing him to a world full of drama, passion and feuding families.
When their relationship fizzles, they remain uneasy friends until Dondi invites Thomas-Edward to his family’s summer house. Thomas-Edward is immediately attracted to Dondi’s mysterious brother, Matthew—and finds himself hopelessly drawn to both men.
As time passes, Thomas-Edward develops a unique bond with both brothers as they orbit around each other, although he knows only one of them can be his lifelong love. Will the three of them be able to find a way to hold on to each other? Or will love, its loss and the threat of death destroy their connection once and for all?
I had read and loved What Binds Us some time ago and when I saw the audio book was really cheap on Audible I bought it right away.
Reading Unbroken by Larry Benjamin, which is another gay fiction by the same author, had formerly blown my mind and I couldn’t wait to read more books by him. Larry Benjamin knows how to beautifully tell a story.
In this case, the story of three men whose lives are forever bound together.
When I finished the book for the first time, I was sitting there amidst a ton of used tissues, eyes hurting, still shaken from the last third of the book.
Reviewing often is like finding closure for me, and after reading What Binds Us it was thoroughly needed.
Closure from grief, death, AIDS.
Also closure from having met wonderful characters, from witnessing an epic and true love story.
I want to share a tiny bit of their story with you, so you might pick up the book or audio and get the full experience.
What Binds Us is told by one of the three protagonists, Thomas-Edward. He’s telling us how his life was and always will be bound to Dondi and Matthew. This is, however, no classical love triangle nor a ménage à trois. Thomas first falls in love with Dondi during their time together at university but their relationship doesn’t work out. They remain very close friends and Thomas later on falls in love with Dondi’s brother Matthew.
It actually cannot really be considered a spoiler, since this is pretty clear from the first pages of the book, that Dondi dies at the end of the story. He has AIDS and at that time, there simply wasn’t anything to be done to heal him.
Dondi was a great character from beginning to end. Never once did I get annoyed or frustrated with him, despite everything he did or did not, how he treated Thomas and couldn’t commit to him, how he was so flighty and reckless. I think this is because he is so very human with all his loveliness and flaws.
Everyone always said Dondi was like the sun, dazzling, brilliant, but it seems to me he was more like a comet. He arrived unexpectedly straight out of heaven and lit up the skies of our lives. And we knew, on meeting him, that we would never see his like again. And like a comet he was gone all too soon. With his passing the world seems colder. But if we look inside ourselves we will see that he left a little light with each of us.
I really, really appreciate that, concerning AIDS and Dondi’s death, there are no easy answers given here. There are questions, yes, even accusations, but no condemnation, no right or wrong. Sometimes life just is.
”You know, your father once told me life was a gift from our Creator. A gift, he said, to do with as we pleased. He said we didn’t have to do anything with our lives but live it and enjoy it. You did that.”
I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to lose so many to AIDS in the 90th. I was a kid then. It was not my time.
Grief-stricken eyes seemed to ask: How many more times? How many more will we have to bury before this is over.
I am so sorry for your loss.
On the other hand, Matthew and Thomas are one of those couples—and I believe they do exist. They are eternal.
It takes these two quite the time to get together. You’ve got to be patient. It seems everyone knew they were in love with each other but themselves. Well, they knew they loved the other one, but thought their love was unrequited. The waiting is sweet, though.
I love to see such devoted couples in my books. Couples who live together for many, many years, who go through ups and downs and come out stronger. I feel it’s such an important part of romance, one that we hardly ever are shown. It gives us hope and sets examples.
I think you’ve seen that What Binds Us is not particularly an easy book. Dondi’s sickness and death only make out the last 30% of the book, though, and even then not all is sad. I think it’s well balanced out with happy and even funny moments.
I have to say that I’m relatively new to listening to audio books, so I don’t have that many references and can’t compare the narration to many other books I’ve listened to. I think the narrator basically did a great job and I recommend the audio book as well. I sometimes thought the narration was a bit peculiar and not entirely satisfying, but that’s probably very subjective 😉
So, if you like gay fiction that spans over a lot of years and like to read or hear about love that comes in different shapes, and don’t mind a book that is not all fluff and sunshine, then please go check this out.
Writer. Wordsmith. Author.
Words, You See, are the Thing
Bronx-born wordsmith Larry Benjamin is the author of the allegorical novella Vampire Rising, and Unbroken, a gay novel, which is a 2014 Lambda Literary finalist and a 2014 IPPY Gold Medalist. His second book, Damaged Angels, a collection of short stories was a 2013 Rainbow Award Runner-Up in the Best Gay Contemporary General Fiction category. His debut novel, What Binds Us, was published by Carina Press in March 2012.
Larry considers himself less a writer than a wordsmith—an artist whose chosen medium is the written word rather than clay or paint or bronze.
He is a writer of stories whose characters are determined to find their place in the world; if they cannot find a place, they make a place. Even when their lives aren’t perfect, it’s never because they’re gay but because they’re human. And like all humans they often suffer the consequences of ego and bad judgment.
He lives in Philadelphia with his husband and their two rescued dogs.