Music. Topher Manning rarely thinks about anything else, but his day job as a mechanic doesn't exactly mesh with his rock-star ambitions. Unless he can find a way to unlock all the songs in his head, his band will soon be on the fast track to obscurity.
Then the South by Southwest music festival and a broken-down car drop New York critic Stanton Porter into his life. Stanton offers Topher a ticket to the Bruce Springsteen concert, where a hesitant kiss and phantom vibrations from Topher’s cell phone kick off a love story that promises to transcend ordinary possibility.
©2013 Brad Boney (P)2013 Brad Boney
What a treat! Five stars just for originality. I'll be honest, I was not a huge fan of Mr. Boney's first book, The Nothingness of Ben. And this book kind of dragged for me the first half. But when the dual story lines started to come together, I loved it. Charlie David was fantastic! He really brought this book to life and I found myself tearing up quite a few times. This is a story of not only love, but redemption, hope and faith. Also, the title won't make sense until the end and then if you are like me you will have a big smile on your face. What a way to end a book, I love it!!
I loved the connection I felt to the characters, Brad Boney really makes them come alive for you.
I would probably compare it to TJ Klune's Bear, Otter & The Kid, because of the emotional angst mixed in with humor.
Charlie David is usually not one of my favorite narrators but he did a very good job on this one, especially during some of the songs.
I'm not usually one to go for a book with a lot of flashbacks so I almost gave this book a pass when I realized that almost every other chapter was a flashback. However, I am very glad I stuck with it!
The author did a wonderful job of mixing the past & the present so that you really cared about all the players involved, both then & now. Some of the flashbacks were so emotional they had me reaching for the box of tissues even though you already knew what was coming.
The Return isn't listed as part of a series but you will be more familiar with some of the characters & some back story if you have already read The Nothingness of Ben which is almost as good as The Return.
The story has some sadder moments then I tend to like but comes out as such a good story that it is worth it. I have listened to it several times and still like it each time.
This is two stories which intertwine into one.
First, Topher Manning is a mechanic by day and musician by night. He works at the same garage as Travis (from The Nothingness of Ben). One day he’s at work when a guy with car problems strolls in with a spare ticket to the Bruce Springsteen concert – one of Topher’s all time favorite bands. The guy, Stanton Porter, offers Topher the chance of a lifetime (floor seats at the concert in exchange for a ride) and they go together to enjoy the show.
The two have both nothing and everything in common. Stanton is 50 something, from New York, a music critic with an Ivy League education and an amazing affinity for all things music, especially pop-music. Topher is a country boy, 26, no college whatsoever, plays music in a rock-n-roll band, and an affinity for all things music, especially pop-music.
They essentially click, and though Topher has never had a “gay” thought in the world, he finds himself compelled to kiss Stanton in the middle of “Thunder Road”. This spurs the beginning of a strange and sometimes bewildering romance between the two that seems to cross state lines, age lines and time lines.
The second story is also about Stanton, but a 24 year-old Stanton, who falls in love with Hutch. Hutch is a trust-fund child who has been mostly “disowned” for being gay and a musician by his upper-crust family. He and Stanton fall almost instantly in love and they too share a love of music, though both have the education and a group of close knit friends in common.
Every other chapter switches between the older and the younger Stanton’s love stories. Needless to say there are some major tie-ins and co-incidences that are mind-boggling, and in a way it is both an epic tragedy and an amazing love-story rolled into one.
I can’t really explain much more about this story without giving too much away – and that would spoil the surprises. However, know this: there are some “paranormal” or “otherworldly” elements to this story like there was in The Nothingness of Ben which will have you riveted to your seat. Though the flash-backs (Hutch’s story) are amazingly difficult to read, they are also so touching and heart-warming that you won’t want to skip or even skim them.
Because the current story includes so many characters we’ve seen before, I recommend reading all three books to truly appreciate this story. I’d recommend either this order: TNOB, Return, Slugger, TNOB OR Return, Slugger, Ben.
Both Hutch’s and Topher’s stories are stories about living your dream and fighting for what you want. Stanton remains the constant. Though he, too, has to face demons and confront homophobic parents and in-laws, he serves as the anchor for both men.
Hutch’s story takes place in the early 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic was just beginning to take victim after victim, so it’s also a lesson in history. A glimpse at what it might have been like to live through the early days of AIDS. It’s so very hard to read, but also so important to understanding just how far we’ve come since then.
The secondary characters are so vivid and important in this book that at times they seem to take over the story. However, this does in no way detract from the main story line and only adds to the main story.
Origninally, when I had read The Nothingness of Ben, I was underwhelmed. I liked it (see my review on this site) but didn’t love it. Then when I got the chance to review The Eskimo Slugger I noted that it was a part three of the series, so I bought The Return to “catch up”. WOW! Was I ever glad for that. The Return is easily the best of the three books. It is also the longest (twice as long as the other two) and it’s hard for me to say, but I almost think it would be best read first, even though some things may show up out of sequence.
Now, after having read all three, I had to go back to re-read Ben and boy what a difference that makes. It’s still the weakest of the three but I have a new appreciation for it and love it a whole lot more.
When I got to the point in Return where I kind of figured things out, I got mad and had to set the book aside. After all, I wanted Topher for Stanton and was not pleased at all to hear about Hutch. However, the story line itself is so intriguing, the writing is so amazing, that I persisted. When I saw that it had an audiobook version out as well, I started listening as a way to help me get more involved in the story. That (explained here in a bit) sealed the deal and I absolutely fell in love.
For anyone with a fondness of music, you will find this book amazing, Brad has filled it with music trivia.
I highly recommend this book and give it 6 of 5 stars.
First let me say that I am a Charlie David fan. I have always enjoyed his narrations, I like his voice, find his performances engaging and appealing and always a dependable choice for a narrator.
This narration is hands down his best work (as far as I have observed). He does absolutely AMAZING things with the many, many characters. He has subtle accents, moments of intense emotion, moments of giddiness and drunkenness, AND he can sing! He sings two songs in this narration and they are fabulous!
It is obvious to me that when you combine an author with the talent that Brad Boney has with the right narrator, magic ensues. This is one of the cases where I can’t emphasize enough that this book should absolutely be listened to. It was an experience far, far above the normal and I was completely entranced.
I give the audiobook a 6 of 5 stars.
This book was both heartbreaking and heart-warming that I couldn’t stop and listened to all 11 plus hours over one very long, long night and the book hangover I got was totally, absolutely worth it.
“The Return” is the author’s second book and incorporates characters from the first book, “The Nothingness of Ben”. At 11 hours 10 minutes (350 pages) it is 30% longer as long as his maiden voyage in the 6 hour 33 minute (248 pages) of the first book. The reason for this is simple. It is two stories, a tail of two cities and times, told side by side. The past timeline paves the way for the future timeline story’s progression. To do this without causing bumps and jars to the readers/listeners attention causing them to terminate the process is a neat trick and requires good writing skills to pull it off. Mr. Boney accomplished this goal.
The linchpin figure to these two stories and timelines is Stanton Porter a successful music critic with strings to pull and doors to open for Texas born and bred Topher Manning who is a struggling musician and songwriter in a boy band whose day job is as a mechanic at the Groovy auto repair; the shop is first seen in the previous book. With three friends from his home town of Dime Box, he has formed a boy band and dreams of having a song on iTunes top 10 songs. The band members are tight knit together and form a pseudo extended family. Enter Stanton Porter when his borrowed car breaks down right across from Groovy automotive and Topher offers to take him to his destination to pick up some time sensitive tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert. In part to repay the kindness Stanton invites Topher to use a sick BFF’s ticket and attend the concert with him. The music sparks a strange vibrant mysterious link between this spring and autumn couple and the sparks of bromance are born in a kiss; much to Stanton’s dismay.
The other city is New York City and Fire Island of the late 70’s early 80’s. Here a young Stanton Porter, fresh out of Ohio is a student; he is enjoying the halcyon days of Fire Island and an ideal romance with the hottest bartender on the beach, Hutch. Hutch/Chris happens to be the self-banished, Christopher, heir of an upper-east-side wealthy family determined to make it on his own and follow his dream of becoming a musician and not a broker, banker, lawyer, or other respectable profession his family wishes. Stanton too becomes a part of a core group of friends who form a pseudo extended family of love and unconditional support. Stanton launches his bromance with Hutch with, what else, a Burse Springsteen concert in New York and a special song they both share. The couple has this kitch mid 70’s Starsky & Hutch thing going on. Tragically, fate extends a fatal finger of AIDS into the little pseudo family and claims Hutch and several others in rapid succession. Stanton is devastated when Christopher’s wealthy family block his access to Hutch’s deathbed and he throws himself into his work, remains alone but successful until fate shoves young Topher into his life 20 odd years later.
From this point the book goes on to explore the existential concept of “nothing happens without a reason” (predestination) and once soul’s become mated reincarnation can intervene to amend the cosmic mistakes of the universe. The trail of coincident is laid out bread crumb, by bread crumb, for the listener/reader to follow and agree with the inferred conclusion that YES Christopher/Hutch soul is reincarnated in the person of Christopher/Topher to be reunited with his soul-mate Stanton Porter. I am as big of a romantic as the next guy, as an individual isolated incident I can suspend my disbelief in a fantasy story, and think why the heck not. However, in my opinion, the author pushes the metaphorical dream a bit too far when he goes on to imply the members of Topher’s boy band are the other souls of Stanton’s lost prior pseudo family, claimed by AIDS in the early 80’s.
A cognitive dissidence is set up in my head when I hold the concepts of predestination finality and reincarnation as a way of amending the universes mistakes or giving deserving soul-mates a second chance. To me the concepts are mutually exclusive of one another. What of the other 658,507 US AIDS sundered soul-mates as of 2012 cropping up 20 to 30 years later drawn mysteriously back to older surviving wounded souls? If they don’t find one another do they just rinse spin dry and recycle the souls again and again until they finally hook up? Should we buy this concept; should surviving souls hold themselves at the ready and look for the resurrection of the lost one in a different body? And what of the other lives one fails to touch because we are awaiting the next swing of the soul train marry-go-round? These and other logical extension of uncomfortable questions makes me reject the extending the metaphorical seductive draw of reincarnation of star crossed soul-mates past an individual case example. Mr. Boney should not have pushed a good plot line beyond the stories ability to carry and support the logic.
The author’s intimate M/M libido driven scenes are first rate. His sense of theater and direction of the actions described leaves little, if anything, to the imagination. Personally, I think the script could use a little less stage direction and a little more sensory hook illusions to draw the listener/readers imagination into the scene as a bit of a co-director. By hitting sensory memory notes that resonate with the readers/listeners experience adds the needed color of involvement into the monochrome flashing images Mr. Boney is placing into our brains.
Recommendation Time: Due to the cognitive dissidence issue mentioned above I have to give the work a ding in the overall satisfaction department. This particular cognitive confection is not fully satisfying to me. However, it is a fun ride and flawlessly executed. The narrator gets top marks for his performance. The transitions between time and place back and forth are seamless. The introjection of the prior characters from “The Nothingness of Ben” are a good fit, provide necessary detail, and a bridge to healing an old rift/open wound between Stanton and Hutch’s family. However, the passing of Christopher’s/Hutch’s trust fund from his family to Christopher’s/Topher is downright implausible. Families of wealth simply do not behave that way unless they too have had a road to Damascus conversion to reincarnation experience. Still, if one ignores the pushing of reincarnation thing, it is a worthwhile experience. After all it is only a bit of pulp fiction. Enjoy it for what it is. Chew all the crazy illogical sweetness out of this bubble gum philosophy. Accept the author’s invitation to believe in the power of everlasting love. Just like in every love song that has stirred your soul in your life. The magic is in the music of love. Thumbs Up! It’s a buy.
I REALLY really liked the premise and the story. Which surprised me because the book before this, The Nothingness of Ben, was run of the mill - nice but not great. The Return is good enough to stand alone but you might want to read it second so you know more of the characters. Charlie David's narration is noteworthy as well. Too many m/m romance books have awful narration, that is NOT a problem here. Not the smexiest [try Hot Head] but excellent nonetheless!
I loved this story the first time I listened to it. I decided to listen again, and it's even better the 2nd time around. All the little "breadcrumbs" that the author leaves from the very onset are significantly more meaningful. And of course I'm driving my car and yelling at Topher to answer his phone and say something! I admit to getting more moved as Starsky and Hutch start their relationship, knowing what's coming. Definitely glad I picked this up for a 2nd listen.
To start, I was not a fan of Boney's other book - The Nothingness of Ben - and I was hoping that this book might prove better and it sure was. The premiss, although far fetched with the amount of characters involved, was very intriguing and heart-warming. I like its odd twists!
Stanton and his road to peace!
Chris talking to Topher!
This book had me laughing and crying and I'm so glad I purchased it as an audible because it made it so REAL. I will be listening to it again after I finish my review.
All of them, I would never try and choose.
I love Charlie David!!! I actually found this awesome book by searching books that he's narrated.
I will now have a new author to follow...
There are 69 books in my library right now. I can never buy another book. :(
This is one of those books that makes me feel queasy when I read it, because I really dislike the direction it goes in. I don't think this is a spoiler because it becomes apparent fairly early on, but I'll just warn you anyway SPOILER: this is a book about reincarnation, and while that might be some people's cup of tea, it definitely wasn't mine. I didn't realize that going in, and I really, really disliked it. Every other chapter takes place in the past, and because of the split I couldn't really feel attached to the characters. Also, it really felt like I was rooting for two different relationships between Topher/Stanton and Hutch/Stanton, and I'm not about threesomes so I hated that. I finished the book, but I had to drag myself through it and despite all my efforts I couldn't get into it.
I didn't hate the book, but I didn't derive much pleasure from it and that is pretty much my goal with every book I read. It wasn't that it was sad (although it is), just that I felt so disconnected from all the characters. Wish I could have liked this book more, because the narrator did a great job.
Wow. This book is simply amazing. Could not
Put it down! This is a must listen about love and loss and hope for the return.
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