Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book Review: "Yield" by Lee Houck

"This isn't about violence. It isn't about fear, or obsession, or sex, or digression. It's really about progress. You can't always see where things are headed, but you can easily look back and see what has been so far."

So says Simon, the young hustler who is the narrator of Lee Houck's Yield. He is unapologetic about his chosen profession and feels like he has complete control of the encounters he sets up. He works a "day job" as a hospital file clerk, where he is responsible for sorting records of patients' previous hospital visits. He has a circle of close friends he met through hustling—Louis, who "graduated" to a career as a successful underwear model; Jaron, whose happy-go-lucky attitude belies his anorexia and cutting issues; and Farmer, the sweet and super-smart bookworm who watches over all of his friends. They live in New York City at a time when random gay bashing attacks are occurring more and more frequently, and one night, Louis is beaten up by thugs while Simon is kept from intervening. This attack sends Louis into a downward spiral, causing him to fear leaving Simon's apartment and become obsessed with buying things from QVC in his effort to make Simon's house a home. Meanwhile, Simon is intrigued by and becomes involved with Aiden, who starts out as a client but wants much more. And for the first time, Simon is heading down a path over which he has no control.

I found myself immediately caring about the characters in this book, and quite often, I read with a sense of foreboding, because I was worried something bad would happen to one of them. (I've read too many books in which the typical seems to happen.) I really liked Houck's writing style and the way he developed this atypical "family." What disappointed me about the book was that it was more of a series of connected vignettes than an actual novel; a chapter would describe one or more days and then the next chapter would be a few days or weeks or even months later, without any transition. For me, that is what kept this very good book from being a great one. But I'd still love to know what happened to these characters after the book ended.

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