My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a terribly sad, true account of the loss of a gay man’s partner to AIDS. It’s also now a historical piece, showing a fear and misunderstanding of the illness that has lessened with time, and the writer’s inner rage at the government of the era doing little to help. It was enlightening to me, since I was a child in the 80s and remember absolutely nothing about the emergence of the AIDS virus, only that it claimed so many bright stars that should still be with us today.
My only complaint about this as a memoir is that it’s very long winded, over 400 pages of the smallest minute-to-minute details. At some points, the minutia drowns out some of the more intimate details and makes it feel like the retelling of events from a journal or record, rather than personal memory. While it was good to see a sense of community, there were hundreds of people in the book, many of whom were often encountered only once or twice, leading the story off on tangents which felt somewhat unnecessary.
The author himself passed away from AIDS in 1995, and while he mentions his HIV positive status in the book, he downplays it as much as possible, keeping the focus firmly on his partner and his efforts to care for him. While this is certainly admirable, I wanted to know a little more about what happened in the aftermath of Roger’s death. The pictures in the back were enlightening (and sad) but I felt that Monette’s own story deserved some page time as well.
I cried more than a few tears over this one. I think no matter our sexuality, age, or gender, we can all relate to the fear of losing a loved one to a progressive disease. AIDS is particularly brutal, and I can only offer my silent thanks to medicine that what was once a death sentence for millions is now a serious, but manageable chronic disease. This memoir is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in gay history, HIV/AIDS, or tales of dedication and love in the face of great adversity.