My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Buy Link: Amazon.com
To any stranger, it might appear as though Edward Johnson has the perfect life. He has an attractive wife, two children, a nice house in the suburbs and a comfortable job as a stockbroker. But he’s been lying to himself his whole life, a fact he realizes when his friend Phil makes sexual advances toward him. But it’s only when Edward gains new neighbors that he falls in love for the first time, becoming infatuated with their teenaged son, Alex, who returns his feelings with equal fervor. It’s a road that can only lead to disaster for Edward, but he’s powerless to control his emotions and his desires.
This is a book that I’ve wanted to read since it came out last year. I’m a sucker for a good tragedy, and Junction X definitely does not disappoint. It keeps the reader going with just the right amount of hope, even when one knows Alex and Edward have no chance of a happy ending. And when disaster strikes, it’s crushing and soul-wrenching in a way that rips your heart out with no mercy and then proceeds to step on it. You can’t help but feel sorry for Edward, even though his actions would be considered questionable even in today’s world. You can’t help but despair for Alex, who feels that young heartbreak that we’ve all endured at some point. And though the outcome is inevitable, the romance never seems pointless or irrelevant.
Junction X does a great job of building up to the end, never in a hurry, never racing to the finish line, and it’s the slow buildup of love and joy with fear ever present that makes Junction X the powerful read that it is. Erastes builds a life for Edward that is comfortable yet restricted, trapped in the expectations of the 1960s. You can easily see how someone like Alex could walk in and show Edward what he’s secretly wanted all his life and never been allowed to dream he could have. You can easily understand and relate to how Edward loses control of his sense of self-preservation, even as he tells lie after lie. I could never quite find it in myself to love Edward, yet I could never hate him either. Despite everything he does, I always felt like he was bound by forces beyond his control and never really deserved the cruelty that rains down upon him. Your view may differ, of course, but I found him to be more of a victim of his own emotions than a person acting out of maliciousness. Alex, of course, is a young man with the kind of spirit one loses in their middle age. I could see how Edward could become attracted to him. And while he is still young, I never got the feeling that he didn’t know what he was doing. Junction X could easily have felt like a novel about a sexual predator in the wrong hands, but Erastes puts the reader at ease by making sure Alex is mature for his age. It’s Alex who initiates sexual contact and pulls Edward down a path there’s no coming back from.
The story is told in first-person, which I found ideal. There’s a certain intimacy to a person relating their own story, and Edward’s assumptions as the narrator reveal an extra layer of his character. You can see things through his eyes, including the judgements he makes about others and his guesses as to where things start going downhill, as well as reflections on the things he wishes he’d done. Erastes is a genius in using the first person narrative not just as a stylistic choice but as a way for the character to reflect on the events and his actions when all is said and done. The story just wouldn’t be the same any other way.
The cover is excellent, conveying the sense of doom that grows through the novel and the theme of trains that is also featured. It makes a great change from the hordes of covers with two half-naked men on the cover. I was able to sneak this one into work without awkward questions.
I definitely recommend Junction X, but I will also at the same time say it’s not for everybody. Those looking for morality and decency in their characters might find the cheating and the fact of Alex’s youth makes Edward’s character unlikeable to them. It’s also an unapologetic tragedy. There are no silver linings to be found here, and those wanting to walk away with good feelings are in the wrong neighborhood. Junction X is about the destruction of two men, nothing less. Be sure you can handle it before you wade in.