“If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.” ― Neil Gaiman
Author: Rowan Speedwell
Publisher: MLR Press
Pages/Word Count: 73
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: New Orleans bartender Paul isn’t looking for love, but it seems something in the bar has other ideas.
As a bartender at his family’s gay New Orleans bar, Paul Thibodeaux finds it easy to pick up guys. Too easy—he drifts from one encounter to the next. He’s drifting through life, too. He barely even notices the naked guys dancing on the bar in front of him. When his friends challenge him, he has to admit he never looks higher than their knees. But then one night, he does. He’s not sure what to make of Michael, the dancer who catches his eye, but something in Jean-Thom’s old building seems to have an opinion about him, and the evening he finds Michael someplace he shouldn’t be is going to change his life…
Review: Every once in a while, one finds a story that seems to stay with you long after you read the last word on the page. There is something indefinable about it. Perhaps it’s the characters that seem so utterly real and fascinating that you swear you have met them somehow, or maybe it’s just that you would want to meet them—they are that intriguing. Or the setting captivates you, either because you can reminisce about having walked those same streets or envision yourself visiting there in the future; either way, the town, the bars, the coffee shops all call to you and make you yearn to be there. However, for me, it always seems to come down to the words. Fragments of thought woven into sentences that suddenly jar something deep inside me, and pull from me a visceral response…”Yes,” you think to yourself, “I’ve felt just that way.”
This is how I feel every time I read a story by Rowan Speedwell—suddenly I have come home, and it’s as if she is writing just for me.
“Nobody knows what to do…We all jump off the cliff, day after day…If you stand on the top and don’t move, you don’t get hurt. But…You don’t fly either. You need to jump, just once. And fly.”
These wise words from a dream that was peopled by those from his past alerts Paul Thibodeaux that he has been in a sad sort of stasis, neither moving forward or back, simply standing still. In his meager existence there has been no room for a lasting relationship or love of any kind and so he runs through one night stands to take the edge off, and drinks to help make them more palatable. He tends and owns a quarter of the gay bar, along with his brother, but never as much glances at the near naked boys that dance atop it. He is in a cocoon of his own making, and his brother is determined for him to shake it off and wake up, regardless of how painful that may be for Paul to do.
So one night, Paul looks up and sees the young man swaying to the music at the corner of the bar…Michael Webster. Paul notices the bruises. Marks left by an alcoholic ex-boyfriend that Michael finally had the strength to walk away from, leaving him both homeless and vulnerable. And fate, along with some very bothersome ghosts from Paul’s past, causes these two needy men to collide.
In her novella, Ghosts of Bourbon Street, author Rowan Speedwell creates characters that are both emotionally wounded and completely real. They leap off the page and remind you that really good storytelling begins with fascinating people who capture your imagination immediately and never let it go. Then this author delivers a compelling story rife with problems that are neither easily solved nor insurmountable. Rather, she allows her characters to grapple with the day-to-day dilemmas and make hard choices that bring lasting consequences.
The only complaint I have with Ghosts of Bourbon Street by Rowan Speedwell is that it was over too soon—I simply wanted more. I highly recommend this novella to you. It is a delightful read!