book cover of Comfort and Joy

Comfort and Joy

(2003)
A novel by

 
 
Question: What could be more terrifying than bringing your significant other home for Christmas? Answer: Bringing home your significant other of the same sex. From the start, it's clear that Jim Grimsley's vision of the holidays holds as much darkness as it does light. Ford McKinney first lays eyes on Dan Crell when he's singing carols at the hospital where they both work, the mournful minor-key tones of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" seeming to broadcast "the sadness of Christmas" in contrast to the lights and decorations around them. Their attraction is immediate, but the couple must face down several obstacles. For one thing, Dan is a hemophiliac who's HIV-positive. And Ford, a rich doctor from a prominent Savannah family, doesn't even think of himself as gay. That the two manage to meet, date, and fall in love is something of a miracle in itself--perhaps the only one that can sustain them through the season of miracles.

Comfort and Joy alternates scenes of Ford and Dan's courtship with their trip to North Carolina to meet Dan's family. Like any couple anywhere, they argue about money and their families; unlike some couples, they also argue about Dan's health and Ford's reluctance to kiss. In chronicling their history, however, Grimsley gets at something fundamental: the strange mixture of love and hate and anxiety at the bottom of every relationship, gay or straight. "You're really not as bright as I am and that's a problem," they both think, being "honest" with themselves, then wonder: "Why do men stay together?" The easy answer, of course, is that they love each other. The more complicated one is that, in living together, they've begun to dream the same dreams, breathe in rhythm, lay down "crevices" inside themselves in the shapes of each other. This, Dan thinks, is enough: "enough, without words, to keep them silent about the fact of their hates and their fears, their deep concerns about each other, and the certainty that one of them would die first and neither of them knew which one it would be."

The novel's prose is workmanlike at its best, but Grimsley's understanding of the human heart is deep and rich. His book refuses easy answers and stereotypes; for example, the mysterious trauma in Dan's childhood stays in the background, where it belongs. A lesser writer would have chosen to make its revelation the book's climax--the epiphany that explains Dan's character--but Grimsley knows that childhood pain is only one of many things that make us who we are. Such is the difference between fiction that seeks to tell us who we are and fiction that knows what a mystery we are at our core. Comfort and Joy is not just a book for gay readers: it's a book for everyone who's ever been in love, who's ever had a family, who's ever wanted to find some kind of refuge from the world. --Chloe Byrne


Get it on Google Play

Similar books by other authors


Used availability for Jim Grimsley's Comfort and Joy

Hardback Editions

January 1999 : USA Hardback
thumb

Title: Comfort and Joy
Author(s): Jim Grimsley
ISBN: 1-56512-250-X / 978-1-56512-250-5 (USA edition)
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


Paperback Editions

October 2003 : USA Paperback
thumb

Title: Comfort and Joy
Author(s): Jim Grimsley
ISBN: 1-56512-396-4 / 978-1-56512-396-0 (USA edition)
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


Kindle Editions

October 2003 : USA, Australia, Canada, UK Kindle edition
thumb

Title: Comfort and Joy
Author(s): Jim Grimsley
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU