Return to Oakpine: A Novel by Ron Carlson (Viking, 2013)
You know how there are “chick-lit” novels, aimed at women readers? This book represents the opposite genre – let’s call it “guy-lit.” The middle-aged main character is a gay man returning to his childhood home to die of HIV/AIDS. Home is a small town in Wyoming in the late 1990’s, where men are traditionally tough and gay men don’t really fit in. On the whole though, the town treats him decently – his Dad doesn’t talk to him until the very end, but everyone else (like his high school pals who haven’t seen him in 30 years) visit him often and talk with him about writing and guitar music. Outside of these visits, Carlson paints a picture of a typical American small town where the men love football, hunting, and construction. The few women in the story are very stereotyped secondary characters, not fully developed.