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Where You Belong Paperback – May 14, 2009
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About the Author
The life of Patrick Dilloway has been far less exciting and compli-cated than that of Frost Devereaux. Patrick grew up in the small town of Laporte, Michigan, where much of his family still resides. He graduated from Midland High School and then Saginaw Valley State University with an accounting degree. He still lives in Michigan, where he writes novels such as this when not chained to his desk, balancing debits and credits.
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Top customer reviews
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A review of WYB on Amazon.com compares this novel to THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP. While I have not read GARP (or any John Irving novel), I did look up Irving on Wikipedia, where the page states that there are recurring themes in his work. These include New England, deadly accidents, wrestling, absent parents, and writing. Further, his books feature adultery, gang rape, homosexuality, and transsexualism. Well, these are all elements (some very minor) in WYB, which some may read as homage to John Irving.
In several respects, WYB must have been a difficult novel to write. In part, this is due to the personality of Frost, who is a passive protagonist and comes alive primarily when he discusses or undertakes a writing project. Otherwise, Frost is an active watcher, much like Nick Carraway in THE GREAT GATSBY, who follows, and tries to comprehend, the lives of more dynamic personalities.
As in GATSBY, this passivity enables the author to explore his themes--in this case, friendship, love, and sexual identity--with insight and sensitivity. But, as in GATSBY, where the narrator Nick is less interesting than Jay Gatsby, Frost is less interesting than the Maguire twins, who lead him forward in life. Anyway, my point is this: Anyone who has tried to write with a passive narrator or protagonist knows how hard this is to do well. IMHO, a crazy narrator is much easier.
Secondly, WYB must have been a challenge because it has wide scope, following Frost from his loveless conception to adulthood, which comes to him in his thirties. In this respect, WYB is Dickensian in both ambition and execution, with Dilloway pulling all his themes and characters (including a bully from Frost's childhood) into a neat and persuasive package in the novel's final chapters. Undeniably, the Dill kept control of his sprawling material, which finally emphasizes Frost's core of decency.
Recommended especially to fans of John Irving, who some consider the American Dickens.
I recommend this story to those readers who enjoy an in-depth reading experience. Frost Deveraux is not a dynamic individual. The core of this story revolves around the interesting and tragic experiences of his life. This is not an intense story. However, there are a couple of tragic occurrences.
Personally, This novel was not among my favorites. That is my personal reaction but would not apply to everyone. Just as each of us like different foods and colors. Though there were tragic experiences, this book is not a tragic novel. It is difficult to categorize "Where You Belong" as it is a fictional story that reads like an autobiography. My issue with the story is Frost Deveraux is not a dynamic character. He is timid, shy, and easily manipulated by others. His life seems to be directed by chance as he does not show much personal initiative. He just seems to fall into situations and he goes with the flow as best he can. Frost is not motivated by power or money. He only wants to be loved and accepted. I found the Maguire twins lives to be far more interesting. Reading Frances Maguire's story would be exciting.
Frost is a young child who has been scarred for life. Both literally and figuratively. After being involved in a tragic car accident that takes the life of his mother and leaves him with a scar on his face he seems to be forever out of place wherever he goes. As such he is something of a curiosity to those he encounters. Likewise, he is instantly sympathetic to the reader. Particularly once we learn about his father and his mother and who they were, and the life that Frost lives during childhood. When Frost goes to Kindergarden and the other students frighten him, he is quickly befriended by Frankie and Frank, who accept him and love him for who he is (or so we hope). The story then proceeds to span three decades of Frost life as he meets one new interesting face after another, and pines for the affections of Frankie, while getting himself involved in other unusual relationships and friendships along the way.
There are a lot of things tackled in Where You Belong. Chief among them are big themes facing the gay community at large. This includes a little bit about the AIDS scare, gay marriage and sexual identity as a whole. These things are mainly handled in great fashion. It's even better because Dilloway doesn't rely so heavily on overused gay stereotypes to do so. No one here is talking flamboyantly or is unusually feminine. It makes the gay characters come alive just as much as some of their heterosexual allies (and enemies). It's also helped along by the fact that there is something more to the gay and lesbian characters than just simply the sex. There aren't a ton of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered characters in fiction, and a lot of the time media tends to focus on the more comical aspects of it rather than human. The treatment here is very well handled. If you found that John Irving's recent novel: "In One Person," was not particularly satisfying about its GLBT themes, then Where You Belong is certainly going to provide you with a lot more perspective.
The only downside is that a lot of this only lasts for so long. Some of the characters that Frost meets throughout his life are quite fascinating. Particularly Frankie who is always a delight and wonder on the page. But other characters don't always feel that way. Every character seems to have a quirk or something along those lines, but what really drives this all home is that some of the other characters are so interesting and fascinating that at some point Frost just becomes perilously boring. On his own, there's nothing that makes Frost stand out beyond those teenage years. It is only when Frankie or someone shows up that things are interesting because you come to the realization that Frost is just... well... boring on his own. And while the LGBT characters tend to be alive and vibrant, not always falling into stereotypes, many of the hetero characters tend to from time to time. Not all of them are amusing. For example, Frost meets a man named Peter in college who is so much of a stereotypical nerd (from his love of anything computer, to even being a momma's boy who lived in his mothers basement) that there's really nothing about him that oozes interesting. We've seen and heard this stereotype so often that I kept waiting for something to separate him FROM every other nerd I'd read about in a novel or seen spoofed on any prime time television program. It never happened. I nearly forgot about him immediately after his story arc was over and done with. He was just boring. And when the characters around Frost aren't interesting... the story slows down considerably.
On the other hand there were other characters who were quite interesting in their own right. Peter is in a big minority here (I'm just personally annoyed with that particular stereotype--especially in this day and age). Other characters have something about that make them a delight to find and to read about.
It's also important to realize that there's a big theme concerning class going on within the confines of the book. That being that some characters are quite wealthy and well off (certainly the twins Frankie and Frank are extremely wealthy) and some of them show it within their attitudes. Some of it is quite fascinating and welcome. While there are many moments in which the story slows down, I was still intrigued overall. Enough to keep going. The story really picks up heading home when the overall themes, plot and characters all come together for quite a shattering (and heartbreaking) climax.
The only real downside is that I never found Frost to be quite as interesting as the characters around him. Perhaps this was the end goal, but in the moments where Frost's is not surrounded by others the story often bogged down and nearly failed to keep my interest. While many other characters around Frost are growing and changing, it felt like Frost was hardly moving at all through life. Despite his interesting path and career choices there were moments where I wasn't sure if, by the end, Frost truly came into his own, or if he didn't. Perhaps this is the point. And if it is then it's not so bad. It's just that with so many other interesting characters... it's a shame the main one is hardly that interesting to follow at all when no one else is around.
That aside, the book was overall really good and well put together. There were a couple of typos, but I don't think that's really that big of a deal. The story itself is still coherent and not so bad. Particularly the tone of the novel in and of itself. It is a little lengthy and drags in a few spots, but it's definitely worth the read.
Most recent customer reviews
The author, Mr. Dilloway, has woven a beautiful narrative through the often troubled life of Frost Devereaux.Read more