A beautiful, elegant novel that resonates with the complex textures of the American South as it explores the classic conflict between a stubborn father and his gay son who returns home to inter the remains of his recently dead lover in the family's ancestral burial grounds.
A slight, drifting novel full of emotion but lacking in action. A man on a mysterious mission to his family's graveyard from New York City, whose father is breathing down his neck with a shotgun, stops to tell the story of both his southern upbringing and a passionate affair with a man who has died. Ferrell (Where She Was, 1985) creates some startling images, like that of the narrator's mother striking him in the face with a hairbrush when he wishes aloud that she had married a man other than his unfaithful father. But Ferrell has a habit of using fey language and convoluted syntax. Phrases like "By me he is loved" and "Why she did it is in the story of it" just gum up the flow. A boyhood relationship with a tough guy named Johnny is convincing with its homoerotic tension, but it goes off track when the narrator and Johnny attend a fair together and Johnny jilts him. The narrator ends up in the red velvet and pink satin decorated trailer ("my ideal of real elegance") of the man who does the elephant act and has a sexual experience described in gauzy terms ("It was red and sparkly when it happened"). There is a breathless tone here, indicating that the novel is speeding toward a strong finish - which it delivers - but often the language is so vague and affected that the true drama is hidden along the way. Also, while Ferrell does a decent job with the material, much of it (the violent southern father, the gay man as a young boy fixing his mother's hair, the fast-moving high life of the performance world) feels archetypal rather than specific. Brevity, overwrought language, and episodes with little bearing on the plot combine to give this the feeling of an excellent short story padded into a so-so novel. (Kirkus Reviews)