At almost 600 pages length, it tells the story of 4 brothers, from the end of the XIX century to the beginning of the XX century. There is a narrative voice, a fictional character who stumbles into the hand-written 8 journals of a former cowboy, Nick. Reading the journals the voice learns how Nick “fell in love with a cripple and lived happily ever after”; the nice coincidence is that the voice was used to live in the same town where most of the events happened and he didn’t know that most of the town landmarks’ name derived by the 4 brothers. Calvin, Calhoun, Caleb and Caliban owned an equal share of a ranch in Montana; in years the equal balance shifted, above all for the greediness of Calvin and the foul mood of Calhoun; among the brothers, the ones who were able to maintain a good relationship almost until the end were Caleb and Caliban, mostly since Caliban was a nice and friendly man who was unable to believe any of his brothers could really do bad.
Caliban is the “cripple”; handsome and educated (as often happened at that time when you were no able to do manual work), he was the town teacher. Since he was part of the most prominent family of the village, Caliban was able to openly live with Nick without anyone questioning it. Of course they were no “open” about their relationship, Nick and Caliban were apparently best friends, and Nick was living with Caliban to help him due to his disability. For all his life Caliban was homosexual but he had never lived outside his home as an homosexual; when he started his relationship with Nick, he was so clueless about the possibility someone else could share his feelings, that Nick had to practically have him naked before he clued into the fact Nick was homosexual too. But once started, and once they were living together, they were everything for each other until death brought them apart. As much as Caliban and Nick were discreet outside their home, they were exactly the opposite inside, and everyone entering that house, and having the chance to spend a day with them, understood immediately their living arrangement.
I like the approach the author had, a mix of historic record and romance novel; for this reason there is part of the novel that is more “detached”, like list of dates of birth, death, marriage, and part that is instead more personal, the love story between Nick and Caliban. I like to think the narrative voice is real, and that for this reason, when the story is more detached is due to the fact the voice is simply listing the info he found in some public source, and instead when it gets personal is since we are reading the novelization of Nick’s journals.
The love story was wonderful, passionate and long, but I have one little complaint: considering Caliban’s disability, and the ordinary lifespan of the time, him living until almost 60 years old was a great achievement, and again, considering he met Nick when they were barely 20, it means they had almost 40 years to live together and happily (remember Nick’s word, “I fell in love with a cripple and lived happily ever after”), but at the end of the novel, the author let the reader knowing Nick died 32 years after Caliban, at the old age of 86… how was his life after Caliban’s death? How was he able to survive so long without his companion life and without any family he could call that? My heart is still grieving for him, even if I’m happy Caliban and him could have such a beautiful love story.
Amazon: The City of Lovely Brothers
Amazon Kindle: The City of Lovely Brothers
Paperback: 580 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (February 20, 2011)
Reading List: http://www.librarything.com/catalog_bott