Article first published as Book Review: Secrets of the Other Side by Eric Gober on Blogcritics.
When I first started reading “Secrets of the Other Side” by Eric Gober, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have never read a Gay/Lesbian novel but the title and synopsis intrigued me enough to pick it up. As I began to read, I knew at about page three this book was going to be good. In fact, was surprised at just how good this book turned out to be.
In “Secrets of the Other Side,” Neil Ostwinkle is the main character which starts out with him as a young boy. He lives with his mother in Las Vegas, residing in a trailer park. His mom marries and divorces several times in Neil’s life. Because his mom lives in Vegas and works a casino, it seems to be very convenient to just run off to a chapel and exchange vows. Neil is starting to grow into himself and finds that he is more interested in the things ‘girls’ are supposed to like rather than what ‘boys’ are supposed to like, for instance makeup and dresses. In his young mind, he would rather marry the Professor from “Gilligan’s Island” and seemed to prefer guys over girls.
Eric’s style of writing is exceptional. I was drawn in and became Neil, feeling his feelings and living his life with him right from the words on the pages. I felt consumed with this character and I did not want to stop reading. My emotions ran crazy with this child and I grew up with him as he became an adult. I completely fell in love with Neil, so much as to the point it was like I knew him.
The story is written so well that you can feel the immaturity when Neil is 6 to 7-years-old. Questioning if his mother was going to think he was a “sicko” because he liked boys, I could feel his fear and embarrassment and that he didn’t know what to do. With the help of his Aunt and Grandmother, he built the kind of strength that you would hope every child has in real life, even if it didn’t come directly from the parent.
As Neil got older, he had to face bullies at school and endured extremely sad moments in his life. He suffered loss, discovered AIDS and its effects, and made lasting connections with his mother, grandmother and several other people. Despite all his ups and downs, Neil is the kind of character you want in your life. I didn’t want the book to end.
Overall, “Secrets of the Other Side” by Eric Gober, has to be one of the best books I have ever read. I would say it is in my top three. The editing was wonderful, writing is exquisite and captivating. Even the romance was eloquently described. This story may have a truth that many carry with them every day -- worrying about the world and what they will think about them being gay. Even though this is a work of fiction, I can imagine that it has some truth behind it. “Secrets of the Other Side” is truly amazing!