James Magruder’s collection of linked stories follows two gay cousins, Tom and Elliott, from adolescence in the 1970s to adulthood in the early ’90s. With a rueful blend of comedy and tenderness, Magruder depicts their attempts to navigate the closet and the office and the lessons they learn about libidinous coworkers, résumé boosting, Italian suffixes, and frozen condoms. As Tom and Elliot search for trusting relationships while the AIDS crisis deepens, their paths diverge, leading Tom to a new sense of what matters most. Magruder is especially adept at rendering the moments that reveal unwritten codes of behavior to his characters, who have no way of learning them except through painful experience.
Loss is sudden, the fallout portrayed with a powerful economy. In Tom and Elliott, readers come to recognize themselves, driven by the same absurd desires and unconscious impulses, subjected to the same fates.