Customer Reviews: The Third Buddha
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on August 7, 2011
The first chapter of Jameson Currier's new novel, "The Third Buddha," begins with a Chelsea dinner party and ends with hot sex between two of the diners. The second chapter opens with a roadside explosion in Afghanistan that takes place three months before the opening festivities shown in the beginning of the book. Currier uses this back-and-forth structure to tell two interrelated and fascinating stories that are often extremely moving, but this seesaw method of advancing the plot of interconnected characters often complicates both narratives.

The New York half of the novel tells the story of Ted "Teddy" Bridges, who comes to New York after the death of his gay brother Phillip ("Pup") on 9/11. Ted moves into Pup's Chelsea apartment and pieces together the story of his brother's life, his many gay friends, his outgoing personality, and his active sex life. Ted, on the other hand, is not yet out to his parents, does not feel completely comfortable in gay Chelsea, and struggles to figure out where he fits in.

The Afghanistan half of the novel revolves around two gay international journalists, Jim and Ari, who are both professional and sexual partners. After a roadside bomb destroys their vehicle, the two are separated. Currier makes a brave choice placing this gay story in Afghanistan, but he does a great job of creating a believable war environment and characters that are clearly motivated while also conflicted. The most exciting and involving parts of the novel are Jim's and Ari's hunt for each other under horrifying circumstances.

The New York sections are narrated in the first person by Ted, which leads to a disparity between the sections. Ted's discomfort and uncertainty limit the point of view of the New York portion. Meanwhile, the Afghanistan sections are narrated in the third person and jump between two extremes as Jim and Ari deal with their own physical and mental problems after the explosion. Jim searches for Ari from a U.S. hospital and military base. Before he can start his search for Jim, Ari begins his recovery with an amazingly adoptive family that lives in a cave in the Taliban-controlled countryside.

In the Afghanistan sections, we meet the various friends that Jim and Ari make to assist them in their separate searches and recoveries. We also get flashbacks of how they met, their initial jobs together, their conflicts with each other, and how they continue to grow together as a couple. These romantic flashbacks relay background information about Jim and Ari, but seem unnecessary.

In addition to the flashbacks, the novel is regularly slowed by some unnecessary history and religion lessons that don't contribute to the plot, as well as some extraneous philosophizing about the interconnectedness of all people, all of which are more clearly shown in the novel's events than in their discussion.

The two main plots also reveal three minor but linked characters who contribute to the overlapping stories.

One minor character is Chris, the sensitive but flakey muscle hunk who loved "Pup." He floats into Ted's life, hoping to use Ted as a substitute for his dead brother.

Another story revolves around Rico, a young Hispanic man who Ted meets at a 9/11 compensation hearing. Ted grows fond of Rico but their relationship remains platonic for a long time and Rico remains distant despite Ted's devotion.

The third linked character is Stan, an American medical worker, who uses his young Afghan lover to drive himself and the injured journalist Jim to another base where Stan abandons the young Afghan man who clearly adores him. This story frames the action in Afghanistan during the war and afterward.

The title of the novel, "The Third Buddha," refers to an archeological site being sought in Afghanistan, which Jim and Ari want to cover in a news story. While the Taliban has destroyed two giant statues of the Buddha, it remains unclear if another ancient statue is real or a myth to keep people searching. Throughout the novel, the Buddha is used as a symbol of the ongoing quest we often partake for something bigger than ourselves.

Parts of Ted's story in Chelsea after 9/11 are very appealing. Jim's and Ari's individual searches for each other in Afghanistan are remarkable. Jameson Currier shows his creativity and writing skill in these extraordinary stories of interrelated characters, but his highly fractured method can be frustrating at times.
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on January 22, 2012
This work truly proves the adage -- "you can't tell a book by its cover."

In this case, the cover is plain and boring. Not so the contents. After a briefly slow beginning, the excitement and intensity are quickly ratcheted up against the background of 9/11. The death of the narrator's older brother in one of the twin towers serves as the hook on which two main plots hang. While the narrator barely knew his brother, who was many years older, it turns out that both shared being gay -- the elder openly and happily, the younger with some confusion, due mainly to inexperience.

Others acquainted with the deceased brother eventually emerge, in turn, to dominate the narrative. Two of them, a TV commentator and his cameraman, are lovers. While on assignment in the Mideast, they are separated in the aftermath of a roadside bombing which injures both. One suffers amnesia, and the other is nearly killed from his physical wounds.

Most of the remainder of the book involves flashbacks to pre-9/11 and the recounting of events leading to eventual reconnection of the now-two main characters separated by the roadside bombing.

This is a well written novel. I could hardly put it down. And I found myself re-reading portions as the stories progressed to savor again what I had just read.

Unlike in so many gay novels of the past, there is nothing judgmental, moralistic, or morbid about the characters described here. They are interesting, sometimes flawed, but always familiar types one would like to know in real life. The fact that they are gay has relevance, and presents merely one more challenge to complicate attainment of the triumphs ultimately achieved.
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on February 24, 2013
Jameson Currier is a wonderful writer. The Third Buddha is immediately engrossing and pleasurable to read. Currier interestingly violates the traditional idea of the "unities." Parts of the novel are in the first person, parts in the third person; events are not presented in chronological order, and there are two stories going on on opposite sides of the world. It all works. In fact, the violation of the unities of POV, time and place is part of what keeps the story riveting. And in the very satisfying conclusion of the plot, not only is the identity and meaning of the image of the "third buddha" demonstrated, but the style of writing and the intermix of narrator is explained. As a reader, I experienced a moment of insight and joy when I realized how Currier tied it all together. AND his insights into gay men's personalities and quests for meaning are really astute.
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on September 22, 2011
A tremendously engaging and perfectly timely novel that spans the globe. Interestingly, it starts where you might expect a contemporary gay novel to start: at a dinner party in Chelsea. But from there it takes off to remotest Afghanistan without the slightest loss of detail, credibility, or emotion. Perhaps most remarkably, this is also a 9/11 novel, except that it's not. It does not succumb to the weightiness and solemnity. A family's loss of its son/brother to the WTC attacks is handled matter-of-factly, and (spoiler alert) the inclusion of a 9/11 hustler is handled both realistically and surprisingly. As for the main story, it takes place in the Middle East with backstory all over Europe, a detailed and true portrait of how we use travel, career and the self-importance derived from each to escape from our emotional lives. A masterful change-up from Currier's last (and highly recommended) novel, "The Wolf at the Door," except that the smart pacing, vivid description and even more vivid emotion are very much a part of both!
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on September 25, 2011
I really enjoyed this book. The timeline confused me a bit at first, but I was soon sucked in to the intertwining storylines. The characters were well-drawn, the plot fascinating, and the ending emotional. Good stuff! :)

I loved this book!
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on March 14, 2013
Was compelled mostly by the central character who is discovering himself as he leans abut his brother who was killed in 9 11 attack. Flashbacks to Afghan war scenes, car bombs, someone with amnesia who survived a car bomb, all seemed like more information than was needed to tell a story which ultimately I abandoned.
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