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Hold Me Now by Stephen Gauer

Read in April 2012

4 of 5 stars

Grief is a powerful emotion that ruins some people and gives others strength. In Stephen Gauer's gripping and unsentimental novel Hold Me Now, Paul Brenner seems helpless to prevent grief from taking over his life. From the moment he learns that his son Daniel has been murdered, his control over his thoughts and actions is diminished. Daniel was beaten to death at a notorious venue in Stanley Park where gay men meet to engage in anonymous sex. Brenner struggles to find meaning in his son's death but can't understand why Daniel placed himself needlessly at risk and is repulsed by the brutality of the crime. His manner of coping is to reject offers of help and forge a solitary path forward, engaging in risky behaviour of his own while awaiting the outcome of the police investigation. He has no idea what to expect and is often confused and perplexed by his own irrational responses to ensuing events. Seeing the young men responsible convicted of murder brings no solace. His only comfort comes from his relationship with his daughter Elizabeth, which is strengthened by the tragedy they share. Stephen Gauer's subtle narrative is raw and merciless. The story is told from Brenner's perspective, and Gauer digs deep into his protagonist's psyche, sparing him nothing. In Paul Brenner, Gauer has created a character who is damaged and flawed, morally conflicted and given to dark thoughts and reckless impulses, not always likable and yet thoroughly sympathetic. Hold Me Now is a brilliant and memorable novel, one that compels the reader to speculate how (s)he would respond if faced with a personal tragedy of such magnitude.