Great fun and hugely entertaining, this light-hearted, humorous LGBTQ family drama is a very easy read. As four siblings gather following the death of their mother, each gradually reveals a little more about the trials and tribulations of their own personal lives. Not otherwise given much of an opportunity previously to bond, they are brought together more profoundly when two of them are kidnapped whilst on holiday in Mexico, whilst the other two work together to raise the ransom money.
Whilst cosy, gripping and enjoyable – and, at the same time, very difficult to put down – this book may not be to all tastes, but it is a definite winner in the LGBTQ genre. The crime caper storyline is something of an incidental subplot to the real premise of this book: a celebration of all things diverse. It is eye-rollingly liberal at times, with all the usual modern relationships ingredients: a married gay couple raising their biological mixed-race son; a woman divorcing her husband, in large part because of his political and non-inclusive views; a transgender schoolboy becoming a man, compelling his psychiatrist to face her own gender identity; a gay drag act who is finally accepted by his homophobic brother, amongst other subjects. But, this liberalism – this inclusivity and love – is the whole point of this book. Not my usual fare, I must admit, but a very welcome change. There is a great deal of warmth and compassion in Four Calling Burds, and it was a refreshing tonic for me to immerse myself in it, after receiving what seems like an endless run of books about war, poverty and Dystopian futures; I enjoyed the book immensely, it is fair to say.
That said, there were aspects of it which did not appeal to me at all, which seemed to pick up pace around the midway point and then intensify in their rhetoric. These reservations were not about the LGBTQ characters or the inclusive people around them, but rather the stereotypical disdain of some of the rest: Republicans are portrayed as typically inane, whilst the English football fans were no less than drunken violent homophobes and even rapists; there is even an Irish Catholic priest who is an abuser of young boys – meanwhile, we are reminded that the Mexican criminals are good-hearted, unfortunate victims of the U.S. immigration policy. It does seem that the non-inclusive-minded characters are painted as a very polar foil to the warm-hearted main characters. Of course, he who cannot be named (of the orange face and blond hair) receives copious contempt, against the virtuous Obama. As a straight, white male (not to mention an English fan of football), I have to be honest that these were moments which raised my eyebrows.
But, this book is not about them; it is a
celebration, and it is superbly written.
The characters are genuinely endearing, and the story is cosy and
pleasant to engage. Being an author of
the highest quality, it is clear to see why Vincent has received the very well-deserved
accolades he has received in the LGBTQ book community, though I would truly recommend
it to most readers. I look forward with
fondness to one day enjoying Vincent’s warm, happy writing once again.
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In : Book Reviews
Tags: vincent-meis drama lgbtq lgbt comedy