Three Junes by Julia Glass
Published September 2002 by Random House
Source: I paid for this one out of my very own pocket
Read for the National Book Award Challenge--challenge completed!
In June of 1989, Paul McLeod, Scotsman, newspaper publisher and recent widower travels to Greece where he falls for a young American art student and reflects on his marriage.
Six years later, again in June, Paul McLeod's family has gathered to say goodbye to their patriach. Oldest son Fenno, introspective, gay bookseller from New York, is the narrator of this family reunion between himself, his twin brothers and their families. Light-hearted chef Dennis has arrived with his French wife and their three daughters. Serious veterinarian David, and his wife Lil have already laid claim to the family home. Throughout the stay, Fenno looks back on his own life even as his family drops one bombshell after another on him.
Four years later, in another June, we are reintroduced to the young American artist, Fern, and one of Fenno's former lovers, Tony, while they are staying in the home of Fenno's friend and business partner. Soon Fenno and Dennis arrive along with a "friend" of Tony's. This June centers more on Fern's widowhood and current pregnancy.
Each of the three Junes reads as a separate story that happens to have many of the same characters. Between the three stories, Glass explores almost every relationship there is: parent/child, sibling, lovers, friends. We're often told that people should write what they know in order to be successful. But Glass is clearly not a gay man, yet she does a wonderful job of exploring Fenno's life in New York, particularly his relationships with Tony (one that is almost purely physical) and Mal, with whom Fenno has, perhaps his closest relationship but one that never becomes physical. Glass does not try to tidy up all of the story lines but I was left with the impression that things had reached a comfort point for most of the characters.
I far and away preferred the middle story--which was a good thing because it was by far and away the longest story. The first story ended a bit abruptly for me, although some of the bits were tidied up in the second story. The third story, which brings so many disparate characters together, seemed a little too manipulative. But it was also the one that wrapped so many things up for Fenno so I was glad to have that. All in all, I liked the book but I'm not sure I would have considered it award worthy.