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I will be reading more great stories from this author myself.
This story starts out in emotional overdrive. I felt like I was barely holding on, constantly switching my grip in attempts to keep up. Having read a number of Brandon Shire’s books, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Or rather, I should have been much better prepared. Though, I’m not sure that would have been possible. He splashes and methodically paints and sneakily drops emotion all over his pages.
This is told in relatively chronological order regarding the events, but flashbacks are utilized. After each one, I was taken right back to the present, the moment that was temporarily abandoned for the memory. That’s what this feels like, experiencing someone else’s memories.
There’s no way around it, Dustin and his brother Robbie came from a horribly messed up family. Unforgiving, uncaring, and therefore physically and emotionally hurtful in unrelenting waves, it left destruction in its wake. Life-changing and bent on suffocation of their hearts.
Shire has a way of expressing love, the idea of love, the it-likes-to-pop-up-in-unexpected-places nature of love, and then he works it between people who don’t always know how to handle it.
~ ~ Their single night together had been beneath the surface of life, an invisible thing that Stephen couldn’t put his finger on… ~ ~
… “beneath the surface of life…”
I almost don’t know how to process that, except that it’s true. Love can be impossible to define and express in some of the usual ways. That’s love and this is beautiful, naked writing. When a monkey wrench or ten then get tossed into the mix, love is even more complicated, messy and challenging.
~ ~ ”… all our romances seem to come from the dirt we bury ourselves in rather than the glitter we throw up for the show.” ~ ~
Unplanned, unexpected, deeper than we could even anticipate or envision. Shire is so good at examining and contemplating love. Asking the questions about what it does to us, what we do to ourselves when we’re in its grip, how it seems unwilling to give up on us no matter the situation and how desperate we may be to give up on it.
I feel both fragile and full. How is that possible? That’s what it is so it must be possible. It’s just so rare for words on a page to both portray and elicit such unmistakable emotions that feel inextricably linked.
~ ~ Like the two of us, one is empty without the other. ~ ~
Stephen’s Gran, Colette, is strong, perceptive, protective and direct. Dustin’s adoptive Gran, Miss Emily, is Colette’s mirror. These two comfort and yet highlight the heartbreak of their grandchildren.
This is a love story. It’s the part of a love story that doesn’t often get told, and certainly not like this, not so well.
~ ~ When you pulled me back and put our foreheads together I saw you naked, without all those fears, saw your heart swell with the reflection you witnessed in my eyes; and seeing that in your face made me understand your pain had been necessary, that it had been both river and raft. ~ ~
Every book of Brandon Shire’s that I’ve read has been fantastic and emotional and unrelenting. This is no exception. I love it. That’s all there is to it. He is one of the few writers by whom I cannot wait to yet again have my heart pummeled. His words zero in like beating heart seeking missiles and I’ve been slain.
This review originally appeared on Prism Book Alliance
In "Listening to Dust" Brandon Shire's first work since his stunning debut with The Value Of Rain,the author once again drives with poetic abandon through the landscape of the heart, ruthlessly plowing through every intersection of love and pain in this engaging and haunting work.
In London, Stephen Dobbins, whose parents were murdered for mysterious political reasons, meets Dustin Earl, a drunk American soldier with a troubled past and an uncertain future. Dustin's tour of duty has just finished and Stephen takes him home. Their night together engages Stephen's emotions but Dustin explodes with anger the next morning and disappears. He returns eventually and begins a tenuous relationship with Stephen that grows deeply over the course of eight months. From the outset Dustin makes it clear that he will, for family reasons, return to his home and eventually does leaving Stephen bereft and lonely. Stephen hides out in France for a year before finally deciding to go to America to bring Dustin back. He is unprepared for what he finds in America where an awful irony accentuates the paths that love and pain travel together, where love can not save anyone from death, but death cannot destroy love.
"Listening to Dust" is well worth reading many times. There are no wasted words, no comforting platitudes, no perfect romances just life told by a master story teller with a razored and haunting insight into heart and soul.
I know this is a well written story. I also know that it is an exercise in punishment. Every word I read either made me angry or sad. The lesson contained within I learned a very long time ago.
As difficult as this book is to read, it all comes back to the two things in life, hatred rips and destroys your very soul and love, as beautiful, magical and wonderful as it is, it hurts, it can be painful but it cannot be destroyed.