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Don’t look back. Don’t you ever look back…
Shy tattoo artist Ash has a troubled past. Years of neglect, drug abuse, and life on the streets have taken their toll, and sometimes it seems the deep, unspoken bond with his lover is the only balm for wounds he doesn’t quite understand.
Chicago paramedic Pete is warmth, love, and strength—things Ash never knew he could have, and never even knew he wanted until Pete showed him. But fate is a cruel, cruel mistress, and when nightmares collide with the present, their tentatively built world comes crashing down.
Traumatic events in Pete’s work life distance him from home, and he doesn’t realize until it’s too late that Ash has slipped away. Betrayal, secrets, and lies unfold, and when a devastating coincidence takes hold, Pete must fight with all he has to save the love of his life.
Drawings scattered all around a flat as little pieces of Pete’s beloved, a rush of love, warmth, a welcoming body, comfort, heat, playful sex until we sense that something is amiss and that ugliness is lurking behind; great chemistry made of focus on the other, tenderness and patience that make it better and good again.
“Slide”’s opening scene is quite simply great, introducing in a few sentences an established couple, a hint at a damaging past on the streets, a hurt/comfort dynamic and an understanding without words that seems enviable, but could also be the couple’s downfall.
My buttons were humming with delight and I went happily with the flow until this passage where we’re still learning about Ash’s absent father and dead teenaged drugged mother :
“You couldn’t miss something you’d never had”
Yeah. And “better be safe than sorry”, “a closed mouth catches no flies”, “a good deed is never lost”, “better bend than break”… and all that jazz.
Apart from the fact that I beg to differ, this sentence is a sample of platitude trying to pass for a sample of wisdom, and I read it one too many times as it is invariably thrown in the mix of the lost-and-found trope. It put the kibosh on my enjoyment as I dreaded that it set the tone for this book, and that after its great prologue, “Slide” had nothing more to give than ready-to-feel emotions and ready-to-think reflections.
From then on, the story dragged me like a bored and petulant child alongside an oblivious Pete and a forgotten Ash while we avoided the elephant dancing on the sidewalk. It ruffled my feathers with unnecessarily-depreciating words about obscure characters, misogynistic comments about any female who wasn’t the desexualised lesbian bestie or the I-live-to-feed-my-boys mama, and an astonishing take on bisexuality.
Was it all bad then? To be honest, no. There were sweet moments, the author is good at picturing intimacy, the story picked up at 71% in a blaze of hurt/comfort glory, but it didn’t prove the bad omen wrong, and pushed all my irritating buttons. Even though I wasn’t expecting an essay on childhood trauma, or a documentary about life on the streets, I was counting on something less superficially dramatic and more genuinely questioning.
I think that a lot of people will love Ash and Pete and will angst and melt without reserve. I will gladly follow their enjoyment, but it was a bad reading experience for me because I honestly think that the author didn’t deal with the topic, only used it as a plot device.