The Early Journals of Will Barnett – Ronald L Donaghe
A touching coming out story
Story outline: From the time Will Barnett was fourteen until he entered college, the one constant in his life was writing in a journal, first about his Uncle Sean and the feelings he had for him, then his love affair with Lance, a violet-eyed boy he met on a windswept ledge in the desert of southwestern New Mexico. The Early Journals of Will Barnett, consisting of Uncle Sean, Lance, and All Over Him is now collected into one volume.
About the author: Ronald L. Donaghe is a native of the desert Southwest, and he uses this mystical, wide-open place where the sky meets the universe, for the setting of many of his novels. He has published almost a dozen books in three fiction series, including the first book in a fantasy series known as “The Twilight of the Gods.” He is the editor of the online book review magazine, The Independent Gay Writer.
Review by Gerry Burnie
“The Early Journals of Will Barnett” by the prolific pen of Ronald L. Donaghe (Two Brothers Press, 2004) is a series of three stories under one cover; therefore, I will review each one in the order that they are presented. However, over all, it is a compelling story about a naïve teenager growing up in a remote part of New Mexico, and the sometimes painful evolution he undergoes from the time he first discovers his burgeoning physical attraction to his “pretty” Uncle Sean, until his eventual maturity–both sexually and as a man.
Therefore, the reader is drawn into the story at a very early stage–appropriately told in Will’s `transcribed’ words, and is then swept along as Will moves from one stage of his development to another.
These developments the author unfolds with insight and understanding, as well as some unexpected twists along the way.
This is the first of Will Barnett’s journals, and the author has cleverly opened it with a credible (…or perhaps true) account of how he found these `scribblings’ in a derelict barn. Donaghe then takes on the voice of a unsophisticated, fourteen-year-old farm boy, to relate his awe and wonderment regarding his somewhat older uncle, Sean–recently returned from active duty in Vietnam.
Thereafter, Will’s fascination deepens as he tries to fathom this exceptionally handsome, but otherwise complex and troubled man, and his confused feelings toward him. In this regard, the author has awakened within all of us that wonderment over an older boy next door, or down the street, or perhaps a relative when we were Will’s age–I know it resonated with me.
“Lance” (The second in the series)
At the opening of this particular novel, the author conjures up a meeting with the real(?) Will Barnett–now in his early forties. This meeting auspiciously provides the material for this and the concluding novel as well.
Now, somewhat aware of his sexuality, Will encounters a boy his own age with a deeply troubled background. Lance is an abused youth with an abusive stepfather and condescending mother. Therefore, Will and Lance form a bond against the abuses of the world, and this bond gradually deepens into an abiding love
This is a recurring theme in the four Ronald L. Donaghe novels I have read to date, and I commend him for that. An author’s job is not just to tell a story. It sometimes involves holding up a mirror to society with a carefully crafted message attached. In this regard Ronald L. Donaghe has done both. He has not only vividly described the shortcomings readily apparent in our society, i.e., bigotry, intolerance, religious fundamentalism, bullying, child abuse, etc., but he has also dramatized the harm these intolerances cause to innocent youths already struggling to understand their own complex sexuality.
“All over him”
At the opening of this novel, Will and Lance have temporarily separated in order to attend different universities–Lance in San Francisco, and Will in Austin, Texas, to live with his Uncle Sean as well. It is a poignant separation, but they both vow to remain faithful for the two years that it will take Lance to graduate. Of course, the question is: Will they be able to honour their vows in spite of overwhelming temptation?
For obvious reasons I’m not going to answer that question, except to say that this is the final stage in Will’s evolution from boy to man.
Once again the author has captured the experience of every farm boy who migrates from farm to the big city with rmarkable credibility. Five Stars.
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