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Sea of Tranquillity

By Paul Russell

First, let me warn you--this novel doesn't have a plot. It is also over 400 pages long. That said, you should definitely read it if you have time. The epic is told from many perspectives. There is Joan Cloud, the suicidal, alcoholic wife of Allen, an astronaut and all-around manly man. There is Allen and Joan's son, Jonathan, who loves life and sex with unrestrained passion. And there is Jonathan's lover, Stayton Voegli, who, being the son of vacuum selling minister, has major problems coming \to terms with his sinful orientation.

The novel begins with the end of Allen and Joan's marriage and continues until Allen is remarried, Joan stops drinking and manages to find her place in life, Stayton comes out and disowns his father, and until Jonathan dies of AIDS. Jonathan is the emotional catalyst in this novel. His transient nature and brave acknowledgement of his homosexuality forces Allen, Joan, and Stayton to confront their fears, challenge themselves, and expand their humanity.

This novel doesn't have a plot, but the character development brought about by Jonathan is both absorbing and moving. I also enjoyed Russell's exploration of homoeroticism.

Reviewed by John Fisher, jafisher@fas.harvard.edu


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