Flanagan, Jim. “Comfort Zone”, CreateSpace, 2016.
Finding A Place
I love reading new writers and being able to pat them on the back for a job well done. In the of Jim Flanagan and “Comfort Zone”, I got a double surprise—a good and well-written story and an author from my city. I had not heard of the book before I saw something about it in “The Gay and Lesbian Review” and I have yet to be disappointed by anything I have seen it.
“Comfort Zone” quite basically is the story of a young gay man from the southern part of America who finds romance and adventure in Denmark in 1989. We meet Todd Breech who faces the same conundrum that so many college graduates face. He does not know what to do with his life and the options that he has thus fore do nothing for him. One of them is to stay in Fayetteville (ever notice how many Southern states have a “Fayetteville”?) and work for his parents, born-again Christians who own Breech Archives. That would meaning driving a forklift and it really does not excite him. He also has the option of perhaps working at an industrial park near Raleigh. Todd’s third choice is the once that appeals to him the most and that is go to Denmark to be with the man he loves. So we see that there is an obvious winner here and Todd goes to Denmark to be with his boyfriend, M.H. They live in the village of Helborg, a conservative place where M.H. has always lived. While Todd would have had to live a conservative life had he stayed in America, but the opted for Denmark thinking that this would make life more real and allow him to be who he is, a gay man. There are those in Helborg who are determined to keep the place as it has always been.
The group who is determined to do this contains Communists, a surgeon who specializes in sexual reassignment, a world famous excrement artist (yes, you read that correctly) and M.H.’s mother and Todd’s mother-in-law. Todd and M. H. were able to marry when Denmark passed the world’s first registered partnership law. Now their lives are set out for them and what they have in store in that small village does not look very exciting or even interesting. He enrolls to learn Danish and this puts him in Copenhagen three days a week. The school where he studies is demanding and he finds himself in classes with immigrants, refugees, defectors, newlyweds and others. He is constantly kept on his toes knowing that he must be ready if he is called on. During one of the class breaks, Todd meets Dodo, a white man from Uganda with a seemingly never-ending supply of Valium and Corey, a black American gay divorcee.
We must remember that this story is set at a time when AIDS was debilitating our community. It is at this time also that the end of Communism is on its way. Todd realizes that the same problem that faced him on graduation from college and in front of him once again. Getting involved with his two new friends from his Danish class provided him with someone to talk to but also to confuse him and give him drugs. To find out what happens next, you will simply have to read “Comfort Zone”. Author Flanagan has created characters that are well drawn and relatable, especially Todd who faces what so many of us have faced. I became totally involved in the novel on the first page and in fact, I could put it down until I finished it.