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What Love Means to You People Hardcover – March 21, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With painstakingly detailed, passionate sex scenes balanced by plenty of insight into its characters' anguished inner lives, Shapiro's debut novel dramatically captures love's roulette of emotions: the electricity of possibility, the pull of youth, the weight of loss. Shapiro depicts the fraught relationship between two New York City men: 42-year-old ad exec Jim Glaser and 23-year-old pretty-boy and aspiring artist Seth McKenna. Pulled together by empathy and animal attraction, Jim and Seth must also navigate undercurrents of pain: Jim still mourns the death of his long-term partner, Zak, and Seth conceals a troubled smalltown Nebraska background that includes a fundamentalist Christian mother, an abusive stepfather and a horrifying teenage experience that has left him emotionally crippled. Afraid of Jim's pity, Seth paints a much cheerier picture of his upbringing, and when his younger sister, Cassie, suddenly shows up in New York, Seth is terrified she will reveal their history. Bitter that Seth escaped Nebraska and she didn't until now, Cassie also struggles with but quickly accepts his homosexuality. Fate temporarily calls Seth back to Nebraska, and he and Jim hit a painful low before Shapiro delivers a reassuring if improbable happy ending. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Cooper Union grad student Seth "enhances" his background during a first date with Jim, 40, the assured, suave, power-suited ad exec Seth met while assisting on a photo shoot. We know where this is going, but the pleasure's in the process as experienced Jim, still grieving the loss of longtime lover Zak two years ago, forestalls the inevitable and spends months--months!--of quiet dinners and long, meandering walks before falling passionately into bed with the youth for four days of hot sex. The two seem soul-destined, but nightmares of Seth's abused, impoverished past follow them into Jim's well-appointed bed. For it's culture shock for the youth from Nebraska, whose slummy apartment consists of tiny bedroom, bathtub-in-kitchen, and a futon for the hooker roommate. Complications mount when Seth's sister, Cassie, arrives unexpectedly. This smoothly written gay melodrama on both the poignancy of first love and love the second time around cries for movie adaptation. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1 edition (March 21, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312347898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312347895
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,341,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Blake Fraina VINE VOICE on June 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this wholly adult love story about two very different, very damaged men set against the backdrop of contemporary New York City. Compared to so many modern love stories (gay or straight), this novel strikes me as very realistic and grown up. Too often writers become so enamoured of their characters that they tend to shy away from showing them as whole people with human imperfections and/or they seem to graft slapdash, quickie happy endings onto otherwise complicated, difficult tales. Shapiro, however, exhibits uncommon bravery to allow her protagonists, forty something ad exec Jim Glaser and his twenty-three year old artist lover Seth McKenna, to be deeply, believably flawed. Don't get me wrong - both men are still extremely likeable, perhaps more so because they come across as so real. And the ending is realistically, but hopefully, ambiguous.

Jim is still mourning the unexpected and senseless loss of his longtime lover when he meets Seth at a photo shoot. Tentatively the men begin a platonic relationship. As their feelings for one another heat up, the older man nervously delays taking the sexual plunge such that the tension between them is excruciating (for both the characters and the readers) by the time they finally do fall into bed. This proves a refreshing change of pace from so much gay fiction where the order of events tends to be - sex first, relationship later. But when Jim and Seth do consummate, the sex scenes are intensely passionate and more than a little pornographic. Hot stuff indeed. But what starts off wondrously soon sours when the secret past that Seth so meticulously hid from Jim comes back to haunt him. What Seth viewed as self-reinvention, Jim interprets as deceit.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A moving, heartbreakingly real story of connection and estrangement, and the shadowy territory that lies between. Lyrically told, with characters who practically leap off the page and into your consciousness. So many stories try to capture the raw truth of grief and desire and fall into cheap sentiment or cheaper sex, but What Love Means to You People succeeds in a way that will leave you breathless.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The question I had when finishing this fantastic tale was one of coherence.The pieces didn't really fit together giving it credibility. Although, the story didn't turn me off, it created situations that felt too unreal (contrived). First of all, let me say I liked the idea of an older and younger man developing a genuine, loving and caring relationship. This is a great example of presenting a frowned upon interaction in a brighter light. What's bothersome are some of the following inconsistencies:1.How a fifteen year old boy can hide being raped by five men( his stepdad included) without word to anyone and still live at home for the next two years. 2. When Jim(the older lover) decides to carry through with having a child, even though, at odds at the time with his younger lover(Seth). Previously, Jim rejected adoption efforts after the death of his first lover. 3.How Seth becomes this unstoppable aggressive individual able to physically attack his past aggressors 4.The change in the sexual relationship at the end is not quite satisfying but there is reluctantance to address the issues. What happened to open, shared communication? Ah well, it's just that the transitions seemed to need a bit more work for me. Nevertheless, it still is an entertaining read.
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Format: Hardcover
"What Love Means to You People" is a beautifully written novel about the lengths we go to in order to reinvent ourselves, the risks we take to find happiness, and the courage to love anyway when the people we idealize turn out to be all too human.
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Format: Hardcover
This story grabbed me from page one and holds onto me still even after I've finished the book. Jim Glaser at 42, a well to do ad executive has already loved and lost once in his life and even though he's not actively looking for a new love to replace Zak who's died, when Seth McKinna enters the picture, I couldn't help but silently applaud thinking here's his second chance and was pulling for these guys to click after their first meeting.

Seth is such a breath of fresh air. Although he's only 23, he's not looking for a sugar daddy. He makes it clear that he wants a man to love, not someone to pay the bills. He's so taken with Jim that he creates a past for himself that he thinks will be more likely to win Jim over than the really oppressive one he actually experienced in Drinkwater, Nebraska with a catatonic mother and an abusive stepfather. I found myself actually pulling for Seth each time his lie was about to catch up with him. I knew the lie had to be exposed as lies always are in real life.

As Jim and Seth finally get things straightened out enough to start their life together, Seth's sister, Cassie comes to NY escaping from her own abusive existence in Nebraska. Seth hadn't been able to bring her with him when he left, because she was underage and he could barely take care of himself as he was only 17 at the time. Seth and Cassie had become estranged since he left her behind as Cassie began to feel abandon by him since they only had each other while they were growing up. But, when things became so hectic for Cassie, NYC and Seth was the only place and person she knew that she could run to.
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