myke’s book club: Searching for Gilead

Full disclosure here, I first discovered David G Hallman’s writing through my journey to heal after I lost my husband of fifteen years to pancreatic cancer.  His book “August Farewell”continues to a cornerstone in my recovery process.  For his strength in writing this work, I sincerely thank Mr. Hallman.
 
After reading August Farewell (and realizing that I have actually read some of his earlier environmental works), I decided to try his debut work of fiction “Searching for Gilead” and am incredibly happy to have done so.
 
“Searching for Gilead” is a tale of the nearly 35 year relationship between Tom Fisher and Jonathan Compton and the complex relationships between the two families of vastly different backgrounds and values coming together through times of love and inevitable strife.  This story carries both families through 34 years of love, laughter, anger and fear and explores how families filled with strong personalities, differing values and ethics can make things work as a single unit in spite of and despite these differences.
 
Through the decades covered in this book, Mr. Hallman touches on how families steeped in differing conservative values respond to their openly gay sons’ relationship and lives together, that despite differing values and ethics people can learn to respect – if not love – one another, how the forces that bind a family together can also tear them apart and how strength is built through adversity.  Most of the characters in the Fisher and Compton families are richly detailed and make endearing, if not interesting, support for Tom and Jonathan’s journey together.
 
Upon reading this book combined with some knowledge of the author’s personal biography, one cannot help but notice a number of parallels in Tom’s life and Mr. Hallman’s, including the nearly three and a half decade romance between the protagonist and his partner, a life long focus on environmental issues and how they relate to the Christian faith as well as the struggles with HIV infection (albeit under vastly different circumstances) and the tolls the treatments take on the body as well as handling a partner’s illness and convalescence after many years together.  These experiences in the book provide a very “human” touch to the character of Tom and make relating to his experiences, strengths and, yes, his weaknesses and failings – an easy task.
 
In fact, I personally found Tom and Jonathan’s relationship to be one of the most honest and human gay relationships I have read.  Which is why I suspect there are some glimpses of Mr. Hallman’s relationship with his husband written in between the lines.  While some of the characters (Patricia in particular) seem to be one dimensional, Mr. Hallman makes you care deeply for the “characters” in both the Fisher and Compton families.  My only regret in this book is that I would have liked to see greater detail in regards to the characters of Jeremy and Carolyn – as there is a very compelling story behind these two flawed and complex individuals.
 
Thank you, once again, Mr. Hallman for sharing your gift as an author with us.
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