THE HOMEPORT JOURNALS: A.C. BURCH
Acceptance, forgiveness, understanding and being able to find a place where you belong are at the core of this novel and the essence of each character’s being. Abusive relationships are the center of what each one has encountered in the past and when a group of ill suited people is drawn together what happens will change their lives forever. Mark Nugent finds himself in the Provincetown and becomes engaged as a Gardner, all purpose man and conversationalist for an older woman named Lola Stanton. Mark has left gained refuge in the home of this eccentric woman whose living within a whole she created for herself since the one outside is too frightening.
The estranged dowagers, Lola and Dorrie, are the kingpins around whom the plots within plots revolve. They have history neither is comfortable talking about, yet after Marc Nugent is given refuge he becomes the catalyst for setting events in motion that reveal the secrets and lies that have informed their sixty-odd year relationship. I absolutely adored these two strong, opinionated women—their compassion, insight and unwavering devotion to tradition and service to their community grounds every scene with a grace and style reminiscent of another day and age.
The Homeport Journals is at once a romance, a mystery and a coming-of-age tale that touches on so many facets of the human experience that I was, quite simply, blown away. Marc and Cole are young men trapped inside their own insecurities and fears. Alone they face their inner turmoils with denial or soul-numbing acquiescence; together they discover that friendship and love are not as far apart as it seems. Learning more about Helena and her past, listening to Lola tell about her childhood and her mother leaving her alone with her father, you being to understand that each character has his/her own fears, hopes and desires to feel needed and part of something or someone.
The Homeport Journals is also, at its core, a lesson in how the past insinuates the present, when those who went before were faced with choices that altered forever their place in history. As Marc, Cole and Helena conspire to piece together past events in order to understand a reality turned rigid and uncompromising, they uncover a tale of betrayal, abuse and infidelity buried in memory.
Through it all, Marc lives with a dark fear that the man he fled from will seek him out and ruin all he has worked to achieve—a home, friends, a place in the community. When his worst fears materialize, Marc confronts more than just an abuser, putting to the test all that he has learned about himself and the people who matter in his world.
Marc seems to envelope the feelings emitted when looking at Cole’s paintings or in situations that evoke different kinds of emotion. The mystery surrounding each character’s past, whether they can uncover the hidden truth as to why Cole does not want to share the fact that he’s an artist, Marc running from his past and Lola and Dorrie’s real relationship and why after 60 years they are still estranged, leaves the reader hoping for answers while learning more about this quaint town. The story’s location is real and Provincetown is where out author resides.
Throughout the novel Marc relates his feelings about his life in this new place, events that happen and he retreats and shares his past. Eluding an abusive relationship and meeting Lola and Dorrie, two amazing older women who are tenacious, persistent and have the energy and mindset of someone much younger, helps to create the setting and atmosphere for the wild and zany events to follow. What is great about them is they are headstrong, opinionated and devoted to those living under her roof. The community is their life and helping others seems to be Lola’s calling. Will Marc and Cole find each other? Will they find friendship and even love? But, Helena sets the spark for the novel and as a cross-dresser who admits much about her life and past to Marc you come to expect the unpredictable, wonder just which one of her identities is really and where she gets her sense of fashion and flare that often reverts to many different time periods. How can one woman have two separate personalities and feel uncomfortable within her own skin? Helena Handbasket is her name, Cole is her handyman and Charlotte Grubb is the last we meet her financial advisor who Marc needs in order to get some help with his ex-boyfriend.
Just how will the author intersect and intertwine all of the pasts and bring them into the present? The story is heartbreaking at times, will bring tears to your eyes and the journal itself is enlightening as Marc begins to write which is the primary reason he is living in Lola’s tower.
The author and Dorrie reveal the truth behind what happened as we learn just who Annie really was, her fate as she knows it and the relationship between Annie and Lola’s father the Captain. Fear burned within the heart of Lola after the incident and looking out of her window and realizing even though she was only ten what her father did or was capable of doing. But, Dorrie reveals another version that comes to her in a dream so could these two have wasted sixty years of friendship over what they think happened? As Marc and Cole bond and Cole begins to paint, Marc needs to define himself as a writer. Cole brings to light that although some might not like your work or your words, you are the only one that has to like it or stand by it. Critics come and go but your words are yours alone. I have to agree.
Both Cole and Marc present a seriousness that most young men never show as Dorrie, Lola and Helena often provides some comic relief. As Marc shares his thoughts within innermost thoughts with readers through his journals we understand his fears, torments and get to know Provincetown from the vividly described days, weather and scenes the author and Marc share with readers within his journals. The fact that Marc and Cole are gay and that Helena is a cross dresser brings to light the acceptance that each has for the other and the willingness of the community to accept the differences that others will not.
Within this novel there is a second set of journal entries that from the 19th journal of Captain Staunton, Lola’s father. Listening to his words and hearing his voice the reader has to decide if he was truly responsible for Annie’s death, if she lived out her years but away from him and just how wicked and cruel Prudence his wife was. Finding his life overturned and learning that Prudence followed an Italian painter, her father compensated with women he paid for and for the love of Annie.
The journal written by the captain is quite telling and now Dorrie, Marc and Cole have to decide how to deal with Lola and tell her the truth about Annie. The journal speaks volumes for the Captain but it also reminds Marc that someone close to him really cares and that he can have a life after Brandon. As the two journals intersect and Marc begins to equate what happened to Annie and the feelings the Captain had for her to his life in Provincetown and Cole something magical occurs but will Brandon find him even though someone assures him he won’t.
When the 19th journal is shared and read readers learn from two separate perspectives what really happened to Annie, her life and who cared for her. Imagine being told she died and being cheated of ever getting to know her own child. Imagine living your life within a shell within yourself and not being able to communicate. As both Dorrie and Lola learn the truth what happens next will warm your heart and endear you to both of them as Marc, Cole, Charlotte and Helena take a chance, place them in the same room within the tower and read the words that would change everything.
Life does not always hand you the time you want and when Lola dies the end is quite fitting as she realizes her time has come and embraces the next world. Dorrie finds solace in knowing that the people within HomePort are her true family and when Marc and Cole approach a woman named Vendra and the rest of the story is told from a second perspective you get a picture that you won’t believe.
Bequests that will change the lives of many and a whole new start for HomePort as Lola and Dorrie decide on its fate, who lives there, who runs it and how they once again can help others. Unselfish, giving love and support to those that as the author relates were “cast aside by an uncaring world,” Dorrie found her love in those that came to live there. As Lola managed to take an active part helping those in need, tuitions, doctor bills, loans and much more two women who had it all and wanted to share their love, money and inspirations with others.
What happens to HomePort will amaze readers as the end result will focus on the arts. But, Marc still has to find his own way and understand that in order to forge ahead he has to have confidence in himself and realize the faith others have in him. One final request from both Lola and Dorrie might change it all and open up a new world for him. Will he honor it? Will he tell the story of their family and not leave out anything? A father that was disgraced and thought to be a murderer because his cruel wife could not stand him being happy. Blackmail, hate, revenge, deceit, lies and distrust plagued him until his death and after. Will he be redeemed by the words that Marc might write.
HomePort Journals is a story of love, hope, trust, devotion, acceptance, and understanding and tells of a place that the author brilliantly states: You never really know a place unless you live there! Friendships that spanned decades and understanding that Provincetown “can be a refuge when the rest of the world remains ignorant and cruel.” A story that has been told. A legacy of two women that will live on if one man writes it!
Fran Lewis: Just Reviews
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