“Someone may have stolen your dream when it was young and fresh and you were innocent. Anger is natural. Grief is appropriate. Healing is mandatory. Restoration is possible.” — Jane Rubietta
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines illumination as: spiritual or intellectual enlightenment OR decoration by the art of illuminating. In Rowan Speedwell’s Illumination, both definitions apply. Miles Caldwell is an artist who practices the art of illumination and Adam Craig is a rock star who attains intellectual enlightenment when he realizes he can no longer live his life the way he has been. Neither of these men were given at birth the names that they use.
Miles Caldwell is an agoraphobic artist. He has shut himself away in the caretaker’s cottage on the grounds of a resort owned by his family. He is alone with the exception of his Congo African Parrot Grace and Sunday visits from his sister Lisa and his friends Doug and Bobby. He has not left the grounds of the resort in over ten years. His parents were killed in a car accident which is the major cause of his anxieties, but we aren’t told the details until well past the halfway point in the book.
Adam Craig is the front man, lead singer, guitar player and song writer for the popular heavy metal band Black Varen. He is a closeted gay man, because gay lead singers of rock bands do not sell records. The world believes he is bi-sexual, but he is only ever seen in public with women. He is not bi-sexual, and those closest to him know that he is gay.
Adam is tired. He is disillusioned with the life of a closeted rock star. The traveling, the drugs, the paparazzi, the pretending to like women. After the last concert of their current tour, he grabs a taxi and asks to go far from Chicago. While traveling, he begins to see familiar sights. Then he sees a sign for the resort that he and his family went to every summer until his parents got divorced. Some of his best childhood memories happened there. It was here he realized he was gay. His final summer spent here, he had a huge crush on one of the lifeguards, Mike.
Although the resort is obviously closed, an alcohol and drug confused Adam asks to be dropped off anyway. He wanders the grounds, remembering the lake and that final summer spent there. Eventually he sees signs of life in a small cottage, and falls asleep on a chaise lounge on the patio. He is rudely awakened in the morning by the resident, Miles Caldwell.
For some reason, Miles feels, if not friendly, at least not afraid of he stranger. He has no idea who Adam is and that is the best news Adam has had in a long time. They share as pot or two of coffee while they wait for Adam’s manager to arrive to pick him up. It becomes apparent that they are both gay. Adam kisses Miles, who then offers up himself for sex. He is hurt when Adam says no at first, but after an impromptu swim, they do have sex. It is what they both needed most in the world.
Adam has a couple of weeks off and gets a hotel room in Chicago with the agreement that if Miles wants him to, Adam will come back and spend that time at the cottage with him. Miles is only able to hold out for one day, then he asks Adam to come back. They spend an idyllic time together, bonding over old movie musicals and great sex until Adam has to go back to real life to record a new CD. He wants to come back at Thanksgiving, but Miles doesn’t believe he will.
Both suffer the loss of each others’ company. Miles becomes more depressed and Adam is in a funk while recording. They text and e-mail regularly. Sometimes Miles doesn’t know how to say what he wants to, so he begins to ignore Adam’s efforts at communication. Then he has his sister tell Adam he doesn’t want him to come for Thanksgiving. Adam refuses to give up. He Sends some very hot, personal photos and videos to Miles. During their time apart, they both realize that they are in love with each other.
Decisions are made. Adam decides to leave Black Varen after the next CD and tour. Miles is convinced by Lisa to wait a year to ask Adam to come back. During that year he will have intense therapy and will at least be somewhat better than he is now. If Adam doesn’t want to wait or doesn’t want to come back at the end of the year, Miles is no worse off than he is now. Miles begins therapy and actually likes the therapist and starts to make progress.
Adam agrees to abide by the one-year rule, but continues to stay in contact with Miles, going so far as to write a song for him. It’s while looking for the lyrics to that song on Adam’s computer, that a homophobic band member outs him. He is torn between elation at finally being able to be himself and what will happen to the people who depend on him to make a living.
During one last night on the town with his friend Evie, Adam takes some pills given to him by a band mate. Two men die that night because of those pills. Adam barely survives. He and Evie are both convinced to go to rehab for a couple of months. Adam will then move to an outpatient treatment facility.
Any more than this and I will be crossing the line into spoilerville, if I haven’t already. Seeing the improvement in Miles’s mental health was an amazing thing to behold. The courage Adam showed in his willingness to follow his dreams was admirable. Grace was hilarious. Evie, as the faux girlfriend was more of a friend to Adam than anyone else in his life. Reading the scene where Adam and his older brother are bickering in their mom’s kitchen and she sends Adam to his room brought back funny memories.
This was a great read. Strongly recommended.