Riding in the “Sidecar”

The year is 1987. The boys wear pink Izod shirts, the girls wear big hair, everyone has a stash box, and AIDS is just an ugly rumor rumbling like a thunderstorm from the cities. A teenage runaway wanders the side of the road, a heartbeat away from despair, and is rescued by a long-haired angel on a Harley.

But that’s just the beginning of their story.

Josiah Daniels wanted peace and quiet and a simple life, and he had it until he rescued Casey from hunger, cold, and exhaustion. Then Joe’s life is anything but simple as he and his new charge navigate a world that is changing more rapidly than the people in it. Joe wants to raise Casey to a happy and productive adulthood, and he does. But even as an adult, Casey can’t conceive of a happy life without Joe. The trouble is getting Joe to accept that the boy he nurtured is suddenly the man who wants him.

Their relationship can either die or change with the world around them. As they make a home, negotiate the new rules of growing up, and swerve around the pitfalls of modern life, Casey learns that adulthood is more than sex, Joe learns that there is no compromise in happy ever after, and they’re both forced to realize that the one thing a man shouldn’t be is alone.

I was looking for a good image of the book, Sidecar, to use today, and of course, I should have known to look at Amy Lane’s blog, Yarning to Write. The hi-def version of the picture was posted on the day the book was released in 2012. I’m always at least a year or two behind in reviewing Amy’s books but I always love them. The reason I mention finding the book image on her blog is because it was interesting to see what Amy said about the book on the day it was release. She was worried about how the book would be received and wrote:

I’m still going to be… well, fidgety, until I see how this one [Sidecar] is received. I just am…. I worry, I guess. I always will. It ALWAYS feels like a profound act of hubris to share that weirdness that goes on in my oversized noggin with the whole rest of the world. I can’t explain it, I only
know it to be true. I’m just really excited when other people seem to think that what I’ve got in my head is worthwhile.

I don’t think Amy should ever worry about how her books will be perceived because she is a great writer. I know she does a lot of research for her books, and I personally love that. Also, she creates characters that you really wish you knew in life. Amy is a master at creating a level of intimacy among friends, which occurs long before any romantic interest pops up. By the time things get heated in Amy’s work you’re so invested in the characters you can’t stop reading because of the need to know what might happen next.

I know Amy Lane isn’t for everyone because she puts a lot a angst and hardships as obstacles for the characters in her novels. Occasionally though, she writes a book that is not as angsty and occasionally one that has no angst at all. Sidecar falls into the latter category, while there is some angst, it’s not nearly what some of her books have.

What I loved about Sidecar was the attention to detail Amy spent on her main characters, Josiah and Casey and how she weaves their story through a 25 year span. The story begins and ends with the he present day, but after the first chapter, it takes you back to 1987 and then progresses with snippets of different significant moments through the years. Each title is a song from the top 100 songs of 1987 (the first and last chapter are from 2011). Amy did a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of the different times. Each time she went forward in time, it was very clear where we were and the differentiation between the two periods showed how much effort she put into perfecting the feel of each of them.

In Sidecar deals with the very real issues of homelessness, friendship, loyalty and love set against a harsh backdrop of a remote California town where it’s hard to buy a decent meal, let alone wind up homeless. In Casey, Amy creates an energetic and loving young man with many redeeming qualities and dreams for his future regardless of the fact he’s found himself in what most would consider a very negative situation. In Josiah (Joe) we meet a man on a mission.  Joe is one of the, if not the, most caring and giving of the men Amy has created for us.  Joe may look like a regular biker dude, but he has a heart that more people in this world need (Joe says that it’s because he was raised as a Quaker).  While his life didn’t quite turn out like he thought it would, he’s found a way to add value and help his fellow man in a way he finds noble nonetheless. When you put the two together, the magic, along with some tears, a few fights and a few sleepless nights, can’t help but happen.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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