The Return

The Return

Brad Boney

Boney’s latest is the epitome of Yogi Berra’s famous quote: “It’s like deja vu, all over again.” Unlike Berra, Boney’s book dabbles in reincarnation and the parallel lives of two lovers music critic Stanton Parrish has at either end of his life.

When he’s a young man, Parrish falls for a budding musician and songwriter named Christopher (nicknamed Hutch) and when Stanton’s older, he falls for a budding musician and songwriter named Christopher (nicknamed Topher). And the deja vu just keeps on coming.

For example, Hutch has three good friends – Robert, Michael, and Paul – and and Topher has three good friends – Robin, Maurice, and Peter. Also, Hutch takes Parrish to a Bruce Springsteen concert where Parrish falls in love with Hutch; years later Parrish takes Topher to a Springsteen concert where Topher falls in love with Parrish.

The story begins when Parrish, an NPR music critic in Austin, Texas, for the South by Southwest Music Festival, borrows a car which breaks down. He goes to the garage where Topher works with Travis from Boney’s The Nothingness of Ben to see if it can be fixed. Parrish is in a hurry because he needs to go pick up his ticket for the Springsteen concert that night.

As he and Topher talk, they realize they have a lot in common despite their age difference. Both are from small towns, Parrish from somewhere in Ohio and Topher from Dime Box, Texas, and both love a variety of music. Since Parrish’s life-long buddy Marvin gets sick and can’t go to the concert, Parrish asks Topher if he’ll go. Topher does and ends up kissing Parrish during the same song Parrish kissed Hutch years before.

Topher invites Parrish to see his band perform, which Parrish does with the caveat that he won’t be attending to promote the band. But after he hears Topher sing one of his original songs, Parrish is sold on the band, advising them to drop their pretentious name in favor of Dime Box and telling them how to maximize their exposure via social media.

As Topher and Parrish work together, Parrish remembers his life with Hutch before Hutch and his friends died of AIDS. Because of phantom phone calls and other anomalies, Topher begins to think that Hutch is back, and has unfinished business with Parrish. Parrish, for his part, resists this idea, just as he resists his growing love for Topher. Topher, Parrish has decided, is too young for him.

Boney does an admirable job juggling this huge cast of characters. Readers won’t get lost about which part of Parrish’s life is currently being played out. However, the large cast and the expanded timeline present their own problems in that it’s easier to get to know the younger Parrish than the older one, and Topher and Hutch seem to meld together a little too much. Maybe Topher is a reincarnated Hutch and doesn’t need to have his own distinct personality.

Music lovers will enjoy all the music trivia and critiques that abound in this story. Although I disagree that Springsteen is as great as Parrish wants everyone to believe, I loved the debates about musical styles and groups that all the men discussed. Just in case readers aren’t music savvy, Boney’s thoughtfully provided a YouTube playlist, which I dipped into a time or two to make sure I remembered a song or had ever heard it before.

In the end, the story of Parrish, Topher, and Hutch hits many high notes and is a nice addition to Boney’s growing library of titles.