March 7, 2013 at 2:20 pm EST | by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Books: Grounded by grief

‘The Trapeze Artist’
By Will Davis
313 pages

The Trapeze Artist, Will Davis, books, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image courtesy of Bloomsbury)

Many folks wish they’d done things differently. If some vicarious escapism via a fictional character who, as cliché as it sounds, really does run off and join the circus sounds enticing, “The Trapeze Artist” by Will Davis is your book.

The main character hadn’t planned on following the circus.

He hadn’t planned it, but after he slept with Vlad, the trapeze artist who seemed so dramatic and needy, what else could he do? He called his mother to tell her he’d be gone for awhile, and he shut off his phone in the middle of her protestations.

He had decided at age 6 to be gay because his Uncle Dan was gay, and Dan enjoyed life. His parents refused to see it, just as they refused to see him, and he often imagined what it would be like to live like his friend, Edward, whose parents were famous and quite bohemian, while his parents only discussed the weather and their jobs.

Edward, well, he wasn’t like anyone else in the world. Edward was the first gay boy he’d ever known, the first boy he’d ever kissed. He supposed he was in love then, and it hurt to think about that.

Maybe there were a million reasons to follow the circus but Vlad was the reason to stay. And though staying wasn’t always pleasant, he realized he’d never been happier. Officially, the circus’ owner didn’t allow hangers-on, so after awhile, he was given a series of menial jobs to earn his way. Nobody liked him, and why should they? They thought he’d break and leave, but he didn’t.

Until it all fell apart and he headed back home to find everything changed — including himself. His mother was gone, Edward was gone. So were his old dreams, ready to be replaced with new ones.

Without a doubt, “The Trapeze Artist” is one of the most pensive books I’ve read in a long time. Author Will Davis’ main character is never named; we only know him by pronouns, which adds to the feeling of despair on each page. It’s as if the man is so bland and invisible that he’s not worth naming.

For the longest time, I enjoyed that facet of Davis’ story. It intrigued me, but as the novel proceeded and this character was piled with more and more grief, I found myself growing morose along with the story. This is a beautifully told tale and no, I didn’t exactly want to throw it across the room, but oh, is it sad.

While some may see it only as a joy killer, to reduce it to just that would be an oversimplification. It’s different and can be engrossing if you’re in the right mindset for its charms.

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