All We Have Is Now

(Book Review)


by C. J. Kurkowski


All We Have Is Now is Robert Taylor’s latest novel about a lonely actor who finds love for the second time in his life but loses his lover after he is brutally murdered in a hate crime.


Set in Washington D.C., Ian McBride is an actor in a prominent repertory theater company. About twelve years ago Ian lost his lover of eight years, Trevor, to AIDS. Since Trevor’s death, Ian has succeeded in putting up a “shell” that “was tough and formidable, able to keep out all possibility of affection or attention.” It took him 12 years to put up this defense system. He struggled with the possibility of being alone and finally accepted it. Ian retreated into reading books so he “wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the emptiness on the other side of the bed.” His friends have tried to fix him up with dates but “the smallest hint of genuine interest on either side” put Ian on “alert” and sent him “into full retreat.” Being cold and calculated was now an everyday existence for Ian.


For the season, the repertory theater decided to put on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. A casting call was announced and that brought in actors from all parts of the country. Ian was slated to play Prospero for the season. The choice for Ariel was a new actor that was originally from Texas by the name of Jimmy Davidson.


For Ian, Jimmy was the perfect Ariel. Jimmy was a “slender young man with a smooth, just-past-boyish face—too pretty to really be called handsome, too handsome to be no more than pretty—he moved with the grace and assurance of a gymnast.” Ian watched during rehearsal how Jimmy was fitting into the character’s role. Jimmy, of course, was not oblivious to this. Jimmy has been an admirer of Ian’s acting skills for the past couple of years. In fact, Jimmy considers Ian his “hero” in the Shakespearean roles that he has played.


Jimmy takes the first steps in getting to know Ian. Though Jimmy is in his early twenties Ian still considers him a “kid” that has much to learn about the ways of life. Jimmy is persistent in breaking down Ian’s defensive walls and his reclusive lifestyle. Finally, Jimmy succeeds. A romance ignites between the two. Jimmy moves into Ian’s townhouse, they vacation together, work together, and begin their life together as lovers. Ian meets Jimmy’s parents, who are not comfortable with the fact that Jimmy is gay and dating an older man to boot. Since Jimmy’s family is from a small town in Texas, a gay lifestyle is not openly tolerated and barely mentioned.


As Ian and Jimmy settle in with their life, Ian realizes that he has been able to find love again. Though they have differences, their life together is comfortable and enjoyable. Ian is again at ease with the prospect of love. One evening, while Jimmy is visiting his mother in Texas, he is brutally murdered while driving down a dark road.


The murder sets off a complicated tapestry of events in the small Texas town where Jimmy grew up. A media circus trial ensues, discrimination and gay bias unravels, and Jimmy’s parents finally come to terms with their son’s homosexuality with the help of Jimmy’s grandmother, Livie and Ian.


The book has a reflective feel to the Matthew Sheppard case and even mentions it during the trial but I don’t think Taylor was trying to motivate his readers in that direction. Taylor brings many different messages to the table with his book. He explores the relationship between a younger gay man and an older gay man, he works a psychological profile on how to deal with a lover’s death from AIDS and a hate crime, and he tries to deal with the emotions of a lover’s parents whom are not acceptable to the gay lifestyle.


Taylor succeeds in making this novel a tearjerker. There is a lot of sadness through out and you can get into each one of the characters streams of consciousness but I think Taylor sensationalized Jimmy’s murder too much and gave it an overblown look. Its not what life is really like. Not all hate crimes make the newspaper. Some people have to suffer in silence. Not everyone gets the support needed when a lover dies after a heinous act is committed.

C. J. Kurkowski is a freelance writer living in the Chicago area. He has published poetry, and non-fiction pieces for 256 Shades of Grey, The Statesman, OUT in Chicago, and NOTA.

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