Monday, December 21, 2009

Book Review: "Safelight" by Shannon Burke

It's 1990 in New York City. Paramedic Frank Verbeckas is fairly aimless since his father's death, and he has developed a bizarre habit: he enjoys taking pictures of the ill, wounded, dead and down-and-out. He and his paramedic friends get involved in some fairly unsavory schemes, and it seems as if he's headed on a collision course with his own downfall.

And then he meets Emily, a professional fencer who is HIV positive. She teaches Frank how to actually live life, while he helps her relax and realize that she doesn't have to face her challenges alone. Despite opposition from friends and family, the two build a relationship unchallenged by all that lies around them.

This is a terrific book. At times I wanted to kick Frank to make him take responsibility for his life and stop him from being so rudderless, but the transition he makes caused me to appreciate his character even more. Shannon Burke is a fantastic writer, as he has the ability to create hope out of the bleakest situations. (See his second book, Black Flies, and you'll understand what I mean.) This book is gritty and at times it makes you nervous for what might come next, but it really affected me, and has stuck with me in the weeks since I've read it. Take a chance on this one.

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