Out of the Blackness

Out of the Blackness

Carter Quinn

Years of mental and physical abuse leave marks that take a monumental support system to ease, but never erase. Fortunately, the protagonist of Quinn’s newest novel not only finds the support system, but also is pulled from the blackness surrounding him in a series of tiny steps that will make readers appreciate the effort it takes a victim to move into the light.

Avery, who sees himself as a human punching bag, has escaped his horrific home life and a group home to live peacefully with his unofficial brother Sam. While Avery is deeply scarred from his childhood experiences, he’s functional enough to have a job at a bookstore and enjoy pastimes like cooking. However, he’s not comfortable with large men getting into his private space and can’t imagine ever having a boyfriend.

Hunky college student Noah Yates, who works next to the bookshop at a furniture store, takes one look at Avery and is smitten. Instead of seeing a battered victim, Noah sees someone cute and funny and very, very appealing. On a break one day in an alley the two stores share, Noah makes his move, talking to Avery which scares the smaller man, whose past makes him fear men larger than he is.

While Noah is surprised at Avery’s reaction, he is persistent in his attentions and little by little picks away at the walls Avery has built around himself. As Avery begins to realize that Noah won’t leave him alone, Sam persuades Avery to visit a psychologist to shore up his self-confidence and self-esteem. It’s a rocky climb, but Avery grits his teeth and with the support of Sam, Sam’s fiancé, his co-workers, and the undaunted Noah, he works his way, pretty much kicking and screaming, into a better life.

Occasionally a little too teary, Avery for the most part is an appealing central character. His past weighs heavily on him as is true for most of us, but in a way his past can’t easily be ignored or shucked as many of ours can. It’s not surprising that Noah is drawn to him and wants only the best for him. As a reader, I did too.

Noah, himself, is even more amazing. He’s a young man who can see beyond the wall a shy Avery has erected and clearly recognizes Avery’s struggle and triumph. Noah’s the type who spies a soulmate and works to have this remarkable man accept him. We’re all looking for a Noah in our lives.

Avery’s support group of Sam, et al. raise the story from the ordinary troubled-youth-falls-in-love romance. Each is a distinct personality, and all are enchanting in their own ways. Sam, a cop, is protective and suspicious, always looking out for Avery’s welfare. Avery’s coworkers at the bookstore prove that Avery is no pathetic slouch, but someone they care about, just as they do each other. And the friends Noah and Avery have in common are a motley crew of men and women whom readers will immediately recognize as true friends.

Quinn has created a captivating universe and an emotionally satisfying story around the broken Avery, which elevates him above many of the other gay fiction writers these days. I can’t wait to read his next book.