“These Things Happen” by Richard Kramer— A Second Look

 Kramer, Richard. “These Things Happen”, Unbridled Books, 2012.

A Second Look

Amos Lassen

I rarely review the same book twice but last night I was at Richard Kramer’s reading and gained a whole perspective on the book. Kramer shared with us the backgrounds of his characters as well as the inspirations for the plot and I sat there mesmerized and wondering if I had really read the book or not. The plot goes like this:

Wesley is in the tenth grade and has two sets of parents—his mother and her second husband and his father, a very important gay lawyer/activist and his partner, a restaurateur.  Like his father’s partner, Wesley is “fabulous” and Theo, his best friend is also “fabulous” (I never liked that word but it says so much). Theo decides that after winning a major election at school, to come out publicly and Wesley is the only one surprised by this. Now Wesley lives with his father and the partner because he wants to get to know his “old man”. And then something happens at school and all of the parents come together in support and in love. Each character in the novel is then made to think about their own lives and how their priorities and decisions change the course of not only their lives but the lives of others as well.

Therefore it is easy to see that this is a novel propelled by its characters especially in the situations of parents and children. The book is set in Manhattan and the characters are members of the liberal upper class. The book is both a coming-of-age novel and a story about the modern family. Wesley, at age 15,shows maturity when he moves out of his mother’s house to live with his gay father so that the two can get to know each other better. But alongside that maturity is also youth and when we take the two together we get wisdom, love, sensitivity and humor. Richard Kramer also looks at the adults and how they feel about themselves, each other and the world. It takes an adolescent to bring it all together and we get a good sense of emotional nudity and an introspective study of the characters. Teen angst shifts to teen love and back again and the parents watch with eyes wide open. In fact, I fell in love with the character of Wesley and he has become one of my literary heroes now.

Now that I know where the characters came from and how they came to be, I see things a little differently now. Yes, this is a coming-out novel but it is more than that; it is a novel about how other deal with it when someone they love comes out. The characters have their own chapters and this lets us peek into their minds and try to learn as much about them as we can. Taken together, the characters form a kind of Greek chorus opining about their lives. There is a tragedy here but there are also some wonderful laugh aloud moments.

We see a part of New York that we do not often get to see and within the city, we are witness to a love story of a different kind and to the complexity of moving from boys to men with all of the insecurities and complexities. And it is not only adolescents here but we read of husbands and lovers and the family. Kramer has the ability to enter both our hearts and minds and you will find yourself thinking and weeping but with a smile on your face as you do. I love this book and I think after this, his first novel, Richard Kramer will be a voice we will hear a great deal from.

Hearing Kramer read was quite an experience so I went home and reread the book and loved it even more. Kramer has done something quite amazing here and that is deal with some very serious subjects in a way that makes us realize how important these are but also there are aspects about them that we can laugh over. Kramer really gives us a wonderful treat wrapped up in a big bow with a card attached that says “read me”.


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