Almost everything about Wallace, an introverted African-American transplant from Alabama, is at odds with the lakeside Midwestern university town where he is studying for a biochem degree. For reasons of self-preservation, he has kept a distance even from his own friends - some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with a young straight man, conspire to fracture his defences, while revealing hidden currents of resentment and desire that threaten the equilibrium of their community.
"It's a summer weekend in a Midwestern university town and biochemistry grad student Wallace is just weeks past losing his dad, and moments past losing weeks' worth of lab data. When his friends who are all white and mostly fellow biochem students find out about his dad, they can't believe Wallace is okay (he didn't go back to Alabama for the funeral) and desperately want to comfort him. This tension, just one of the burners Taylor ignites in the slowly unfolding opening scene, simmers for the book's duration and deepens as readers get to know Wallace and his highly honed abilities of self-preservation. When he and his friend Miller, who's straight, consummate their attraction and pierce one another's tough outer shells in the process, neither is quite ready for what pours out: buried cruelties that, while completely different, bond them. Taylor translates Wallace's thoughts and conversations with a rare fluidity and writes breathlessly physical scenes, all of which adds to the charged experience of reading his steadily exciting and affecting debut; it's an experience in itself. He works a needle through Wallace's knots of race, class, and love, stopping after loosening their loops and making hidden intricacies visible, but before neatly untying them.--Annie Bostrom Copyright 2019 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Taylor's intense, introspective debut tackles the complicated desires of a painfully introverted gay black graduate student over the course of a tumultuous weekend. Wallace, a biochemistry student from Alabama at an unnamed contemporary Midwestern university, discovers his experiment involving breeding nematodes ruined by contaminating mold. Though distraught and facing tedious work, he reluctantly meets up with friends from his program to celebrate the last weekend of summer. He discloses to them the recent death of his estranged father, who did not protect him from sexual abuse by a family friend as a child. Wallace is perpetually ill at ease with his white friends and labmates, especially surly Miller, who unexpectedly admits a sexual interest in Wallace. Over the following two days, Wallace and Miller awkwardly begin a secret, volatile sexual relationship with troubling violence between them at its margins. As Wallace begins to doubt his future as an academic and continues to have fraught social interactions, he reveals more about his heartbreaking past to Miller, building toward an unsettling, unresolved conclusion between the two men. Wallace's inconsistent emotional states when he's in Miller's company can be jarring; the novel is at its best and most powerful when Wallace is alone and readers witness his interior solitude in the face of the racism and loneliness he endures. Taylor's perceptive, challenging exploration of the many kinds of emotional costs will resonate with readers looking for complex characters and rich prose. Agent: Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, DeFiore and Company. (Feb.)"
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