This is a Love Story – Angel by Laura Lee
Since the loss of his lively, charming wife to cancer six years ago, minister Paul Tobit has been operating on autopilot, performing his religious duties by rote. Everything changes the day he enters the church lobby and encounters a radiant, luminous being lit from behind, breathtakingly beautiful and glowing with life. An angel. For a moment Paul is so moved by his vision that he is tempted to fall on his knees and pray.
Even after he regains his focus and realizes he simply met a flesh-and-blood young man, Paul cannot shake his sense of awe and wonder. He feels an instant and overwhelming attraction for the young man, which puzzles him even as it fills his thoughts and fires his feelings. Paul has no doubt that God has spoken to him through this vision, and Paul must determine what God is calling him to do.
Thus begins a journey that will inspire Paul’s ministry but put him at odds with his church as he is forced to examine his deeply held beliefs and assumptions about himself, his community, and the nature of love.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Angel in exchange for an honest review.
Each chapter is begun with a quote. Sometimes it is theological text, sometimes from the bible, sometimes it is the musings of the author. Regardless, the connection of the quotes is the theme of the mountain as a sacred space. It’s interesting that the story itself has nothing to do with a mountain, but the emotional path the characters are on is much like the experience of climbing the summit of a great peak. The climb is exhilarating, the expectations great, but the way down is often the hardest and more important part of the journey.
Written in third person, Lee’s main character Paul is consistent and beautifully depicted. He is the minister of a small Christian Church. He is struggling with the meaning and beauty of life. Since his wife’s death, his inspiration and meaning has been lost. It is not until one day, upon seeing a man who enters the Narthex, searching for an AA meeting, that Paul’s imagination is re-kindled.
Having lived a predictible life, Paul is overwhelmed by his sudden attraction and obsession with the man he meets. Throughout the book Paul struggles with his identity. I’m not like him he thinks to himself when confronted with a gay man her refers to as “swishy”. Definitions of sexuality, identity, faith and love are explored deeply and intimately throughout the book.
Personally I adored this section of the book. Especially the lines: “Bisexual” was the obvious (and least absurd) choice, but it didn’t feel right to him either. Paul had always associated that word with people who wanted to play around and experiment with sex. To his mind, it lacked commitment and serious intent.” Ahhh yes, I’ve heard that before!
Although Angel is listed under Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, GBLT Erotica, General Erotica and Religion & Spirituality Romance, as well as Contemporary Romance. I think it’s really Literary Ficiton. I would even agree with the Religion & Spirituality Romance category, but to gall it Erotica in anyway is just inaccurate. While the two men who fall in love do have sex, it is not detailed for the reader. This is a general frustration of mine. Just because they’re gay doesn’t mean it’s Erotica! This isn’t the author’s doing, but either the publisher or the people who read it. I just don’t get it.
Angel is an exploration of faith, an exploration of the nature of love, and forces the reader to think about the difference between private and public identity. I have to admit, this one made me cry a number of times. The raw emotions, the lyrical writing and the unadulterated adoration Paul felt for Ian was overwhelming at times.
Things that struck me was the relationship between Mary and Stuart, small incidental characters whose lives mirrored in many ways the issues gay couples face. What is the label for your “special friend”. How is that enough? What are your rights? How is the mourning one goes through as part of an unofficial couple different from when a married person looses a spouse?
Angel is a book that needs to be read a few times. It should be essential reading for Gender Studies and Seminary in dealing with issues of Sexuality. It’s deep, it’s thoughtful, its beautiful and evocative. Angel challenges the reader to look at themselves, their lives and re-examine their preconceived notions.
Most of all though Angel is a love story. And you should read it.
Later this week I’ll be having Laura Lee on my blog to give an interview and do a small giveaway. I hope you’ll check it out and pick up a copy of Angel. If you have any questions for her, send them my way and I’ll make sure to pass them on.