“All of us are a culmination of vital parts of our parents and their past. A vital part of the circumstances we were raised with. Everything that happens to us, good and bad, leaves a lasting impression in our souls.”… His head was pounding from trying to digest all of this. “I’m so overwhelmed.” “Most of us are, Nick. Even though we look calm and peaceful on the outside, most of us are barely hanging on by our fingernails.” — Sherrilyn Kenyon
This was a strange read for me. The story was excellent, the characters compelling. Where I ran into trouble was all the italics. Not the font, the part of the story being told in italics. Sometimes it was a dream. Occasionally it was a story or poem that one of the characters had written. Sometimes a memory. A few times it was happening in real time but the character wasn’t in his right state of mind. The italics explained a lot about the young men I was getting to know and care about. They were easily a third of the book. But I had a hard time determining into which category each particular set of italics fell. It would take a page or two after returning to the regular font for me to figure out what I had just read in pages and pages of italics. Did I mention that the story was excellent?
The blurb for Paradise at Main and Elm gives away very little of the plot. This means that I will be unable to summarize the story without spoiling it and I am not willing to spoil it. Ezra (and let’s hear it for the use of an original, old-fashioned character name!) and Adrian both came from nightmarish upbringings. They each suffered their own kind of hell and are still in the process of working through it when we meet them. In fact, parts of their hell are still alive and well.
Ezra and Adrian meet in a college writing class. They have both chosen the written word as a way to process their baggage. Baggage seems like such an incompetent word for what these two young men were hauling around. They each had enough steamer trunks to fill a railroad car. While they both write, Ezra writes poetry while Adrian writes short stories. Their writing helps exorcize their demons and it also brings them tentatively together as they write pieces for and about each other.
Their “relationship” has barely begun when Adrian has to leave school unexpectedly to go home. He doesn’t think he will be gone long and he isn’t. Ezra feels every minute of Adrian’s absence as though it were a week. While Adrian feels the horror that is his life can’t get any worse, he is proven wrong while visiting home. He makes a hasty return to school and to Ezra.
The comfort these young men are able to provide for each other and the safety they find together just made me smile. The way Mr. Bressennel wrote them, it was apparent that they were made for each other. Whether he wrote them that way or muse made him do it, it was a beautiful pairing. It was worth the extra time to read and figure out the italics, because they gave vast insight into Ezra and Adrian and why they are who they are. It will take patience, but I highly recommend this book.