“It’s exhausting to hate what you love and love what you hate.”
When we first encounter Mai Kearns he is one very angry young man. Having spent his life as the odd one out in the community where he grew up, and after losing his first love, he now faces the impending loss of the only home he’s ever known as well as his family’s source of income.
Vin Vanbly is on a quest to reunite Mai with his natural curiosity and sense of wonder but for a long time it appears to be an impossible mission as Mai’s anger and frustration continue to get in the way.
“Kearns, it’s all a waste of time. All of it. Until the minute it’s not. Then every moment perfectly led us there.”
With his usual mix of clues, misdirection and stories about the Lost and Found Kings, Vin brings Mai to breaking point only for Mai to resurface, stronger and more determined to reach his goals than ever.
In the midst of this story the reader is treated to endless amounts of pearls of wisdom and quotable passages. I tried to restrain myself but still ended up with the following quotes I felt I had to share because they spoke to my heart, brought tears to my eyes and/or made me smile.
The following, for example, is a universal truth, not reserved only for men.
“We are so busy defining ourselves as gay men and straight men, we forget we share a whole word in common. We are men.”
And this quote, about love and waiting for that special one who’s meant just for you, broke my heart:
“When you’re single all the time, like I am, it’s hard to remain curious about that one true love, to keep your heart open to the possibility of its eventual return. We want it, we court it, we dream about it. The one thing we cannot do is control it. Love comes for us or not. The curious remain on a train platform, waiting for an imminent arrival. We look at the silent tracks and wait for their vibration, promising love is on the way.”
I returned to the following sentence over and over again. I live for the day this will be true.
“Once we’re all on the same page celebrating not being on the same page, the world transforms.”
And finally (for now) the following; so simple and yet so true. Surrender to life and it will all come together. Maybe not in a way we expected or hoped for, but come together it will.
“All he had to do was surrender.”
A scene I won’t quote from but which stole my heart with its sheer beauty was the one involving the Butterfly Tree. Not only was the description of the tree beautiful and so vivid I could see it, the whole set up and all it revealed to Mai brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face. It was as magical a moment as I’ve ever experienced while reading.
While I was totally engrossed in Mai’s story and quest, I was as invested in Vin and his emotions. For the second time Vin broke my heart. I can’t read about him thinking he’s not good enough, doesn’t know enough or isn’t clever enough without hurting for him. I hate how he can’t see all the good he’s doing. I guess Vin’s story was harder to read than Mai’s (and Perry’s) because I knew Mai (like Perry) would find his Kinghood despite all the obstacles he would encounter along the way. The clue is in the title. There is no real happy ending for Vin though. He gets the satisfaction of having ‘kinged’ another man but he still ends up alone and still sees himself as not good enough to deserve the same outcome.
“I like to believe there’s a big secret to becoming a Found King and it simply eludes me. But what if there is no big secret? What if I’m just a terrible person and don’t want to admit it to myself? Or maybe I’m just not smart enough. If I had gone to college I would know a better way to do this. Who knows? Maybe college doesn’t even help if you’re just a fuckup at life.”
Edmond Manning writes like no other author I’ve ever read. He appears to break every single rule known to men, writers and editors, and ends up with a work of sheer brilliance. He doesn’t tell his readers a story he brings them on an adventure. We’re not observing proceedings from a distance, we are part of them. These characters become as important to us as our closest friends are. In fact, they join the ranks or those friends.
Finally, it was both rewarding and spooky to read a story revolving around what has been my personal mantra for at least the past fifteen years. On my Facebook author page the cover photo states ‘It’s never too late to be what you might have been’. Or, as Vin says to Mai in this book:
“But the Found Kings have a prophecy about end times as well, which they call the Great Remembering. It’s less of an end of times and more of a new dawn as every Lost King and Queen remembers who they were always meant to be.”
“It’s time, Kearns. Time for you to remember who you were always meant to be.”