I recently read Jim Grimsley’s Comfort & Joy, my decision based on very strong reviews on Goodreads. This was one of those rare books that I so wanted the story to continue for another 100 pages or more. This is a fast paced, quick read that one can easily polish off in two evenings. The story takes place in modern-day Atlanta and centers on the relationship between Ford McKinney, a pediatric resident in his twenties and Dan Crell, a 30-something administrator working at the same hospital as Ford. Their backgrounds and beliefs are very different. Ford is from a wealthy, very conservative family and is extremely closeted even to close friends and family. Dan’s roots are what one might call poor white trailer trash, is openly gay, a hemophiliac and HIV positive. With such disparate life experiences and perspectives they have their share of struggles in building a relationship although there is a strong mutual attraction from the start. For additional drama Grimsley adds the stress they like so many others have of visiting and dealing with family at Christmas time.
I was so drawn into Ford and Dan’s relationship that when I was getting down to the last twenty pages, I did not want their story to end. Seeing their love for each other grow throughout the novel, seeing Ford finally getting comfortable in his own skin and not be self-loathing about being gay, seeing him finally facing his self-righteous, narrow-minded parents and essentially tell them to go screw themselves if they could not accept Dan as his lover and life partner was a wonderful journey. I have read comments from others that the story of Dan’s past, his relationship with his family, especially his father and brother Grove, was disappointingly never explained and I shared those feelings after finishing the book. What a nice surprise it was then to learn that Grimsley’s earlier award-winning novel Winter Birds in fact is that very story, the story of Danny’s troubled childhood. I eagerly look forward to reading that as well as another Grimsley book, Dream Boy.