Winters, Eden. “Naked Tails”, Dreamspinner Press 2012.
Looking for Answers and Finding Love
I never thought that I would read a book about gay possums but then I also never thought that I would live in Boston so I suppose that the two go together. I met Eden Winters last year at the Lambda Literary Awards in New York City and we talked about reviewing one of her books but it did not seem like it was going to happen—but now it has. When I dropped her a line about reviewing this book, she was a bit surprised that I had chosen the book about possums but it was a new release and I assured her that I would treat a possum the same way I would treat a hunky and intelligent Adonis so let’s see if I do.
This is the story of Seth McDaniel who is a shifter but who had never lived among other shifters and did not know about turning into something else. He had been orphaned when he was very young and he remembers almost nothing about his childhood. When his great-aunt Irene died, he returned to Possum Kingdom, Georgia where he is to continue what he understands to be his family’s legacy and also to meet with an old friend who he has never forgotten. The shifter passel is in a state of confusion now that Irene is gone and Dustin Livingston who is second in command has to decide whether or not to take control and find someone to do so. The only other candidates are cruel and seem to have no idea of how to assume control. Dustin thinks that the best thing to do is to train Seth to take over but the two men have not seen each other in twenty years. Dustin has always felt strongly for Seth and is anxious to see him. Seth, of course, has many questions as he begins to learn that there is something very strange going on his life.
I have to hand it to Winters for choosing a new idea and I am fairy sure that this is the first and only book about a gay possum. (I have searched on Google for gay possums in literature and nothing came up). Do not be fooled by the idea that this is the story of a possum because even though it is, it is the story of a romance.
Dustin and Seth had been best friends when they were young but Seth moved away—to his grandmother’s—when his parents died. He has come back now to take care of Irene’s estate and has no idea that what he is dealing with includes more than property. Irene had been the leader of the passel and Dustin was second in command even though he never wanted the position. He is excited that Seth is returning but the Seth he meets is quite different from the one he remembers. He does not seem to be the least bit interested in his inheritance. Dustin is a bit bewildered by this and by the fact that he has such strong feelings for Seth.
I love the idea that Winters chose a possum, mainly because they are not beautiful animals and it is as if to show that gay men are not always good looking. On the other hand, there is something about Seth that pulls us in. I picture him as a cute young man who is lost in a culture that is alien to him. He certainly does not feel that he has the traits necessary to be a leader but we, as readers, see that they are there and that he has just not realized them yet. On the other hand, Dustin is leadership material but he does not want to be a leader and the only reason he has stepped up to the plate is because the alternatives are so bad.
Seth seems to be reluctant to stand up for what he believes in because he is somewhat afraid. Since he did not grow up in the passel (a new word for me—I discovered that it is the correct name for a group of opossums), he did not understand his heritage or that he had the dormant strain in him. Dustin is the town doctor at Possum Kingdom and becomes the temporary leader of the passel. Before Irene died, she tried to set up a match between her nephew Seth and Dustin. When the two meet again in the passel, they understand that what had been their boyhood friendship could easily now become something much more.
Now all of you probably want to know how does the author succeed in writing a love story about possums and keep our interest at the same time? That you would have to ask the writer. She does it and she does it beautifully and it indeed helps that she includes detail and well created characters. She writes with wit and humor and there is a certain “I am not sure what” quality to her writing. I am quite sure that most of us would consider a story about possum shifters to be a ridiculous idea and to a degree it is. Winters is able to turn that “ridiculous idea” into a wonderful story of identity and love. Winters gives us a look at friendship, family and loyalty and the story is really about one finding his place in the world.