After

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After
by Chuck Willman
JMS Books

Writer (and A&U columnist) Chuck Willman invites you into the world of committed partners Gabe and Chris, who have settled into the quiet routine of homelife in their bungalow. Both men have been swept into the regimen of working—Gabe at his counseling position at an HIV/AIDS center in Reno, and Chris at rebuilding his health as much as possible every time an AIDS-related illness weakens him—and neither of them have the time nor energy to nurture the relationship as much as each would like to. Yet, each of them worry about the needs of the other and want to make the other happy, especially now that “happily ever after” means something different. Chris is concerned about what will happen to Gabe “after” he is gone. Is there some way he can help him find love?

Helping them in their everyday lives is Nebraska-born farmboy Trevor, a nurse at the HIV/AIDS center and caregiver to Chris. Younger than Gabe and Chris, Trevor is a newbie to love and sex and community (but he’s willing to learn).

The novella offers us a different kind of love triangle, one that explores selflessness and starting over. The lean prose, reminiscent of E. Lynn Harris, lays bare the raw emotions and allows the characters to loom large like oases in the desert. After is heartfelt and refreshing.