The following book review for my second novel, Bridge Across the Ocean, appeared in the September 2000 edition of the Lambda Book Report.
The follow up to Randy Boyd’s Lambda Literary Award nominated suspense thriller Uprising is a surprising change of pace.
Bridge Across the Ocean is an intimate novel about relationships, most specifically the relationship between an HIV-positive African-American man who encounters and befriends two straight white teenagers while on vacation in Cancun in 1988.
“A powerful, emotional novel that cannot help but move the reader.”
The book encompasses several themes: the attraction between an older man and a boy below the age of consent; the possibilities of racism and homophobia; and the question of whether it is possible for a gay man and a straight boy to be friends in a society desperately afraid of pedophilia. That Boyd is able to not only pull these difficult themes off without either pandering or moralizing is a testament to his enormous writing talent.
The sexual attraction that Derek, the main character, feels for the older boy, Rob Velarde, and the conflict this poses for Derek is beautifully handled. Although the temptation is strong, Derek realizes the danger inherent in attempting to seduce a teenager, and ultimately has to decide whether a seduction is worth the potential damage it could cause, not only for himself but for Rob’s emotional and psychological development.
The characters of Rob and his younger brother, Skeeter, are realistically drawn. The scene where Derek comes out to their mother, Roberta, is almost painful in its realism and raw emotion.
Ultimately, this is a powerful, emotional novel that cannot help but move the reader. Derek is a heroic figure dealing with an almost impossible situation, and his emotional conflicts are further complicated with dealing with his own HIV status in the late 80’s, when the current meds were a far-off dream.
The book words on every level, and Randy Boyd is definitely a writer to reckon with.