Yates, Victor. “A Love Like Blood”, Hilmont Press, 2015.
Sexuality, Race and So Much More
Carsten Tynes is half Somali and Cuban who are the age of seventeen deals with sexuality, race, Americanism, belief and migration while living with his abusive, dying father. It is 1998 and Carsten’s family has relocated to Beverly Hills to expand their photography business. His father has a lung disease and promises to give Carsten the business if he marries his ex-girlfriend. Now he has to face an unwanted marriage and the slow death of his father causing him to retreat behind his camera and it is that camera that becomes the catalyst for the unraveling of the relationship between father and son and opens Carsten to the world of “men who move at night.” Carsten’s infatuation with his neighbor, Brett, however is what really splits father and son yet it is death that brings his father and Brett together and causes Carsten to make a dangerous decision to protect them.
Differences between father and son are certainly not something new in literature but that is only the starting point in Victor Yates’ poetically written novel. We meet Carsten as a teen who is coming to terms with his sexuality in the face of his father’s disapproval and rejection. Although Carsten’s sexuality is an important issue here, the plot is about family and expectations and it is how he deals with both of these and the choices he makes that make this a must-read. It is important to notice the details because they are what make Carsten such an unforgettable literary figure. We really only know what Carsten wants us to know, i.e., what he captures in his camera lens.
Carsten’s father is certainly not a man that anyone would like but He is not the villain of this story even though he abuses his sons. The neighbor Brett sees the situation from the outside in and he sees something that the sons do not but Carsten stops us for having any sympathy for his father by showing us how he has been and there is violence there that is intense and graphic.
Carsten’s vicious father is thoroughly unlikable, however, he isn’t necessarily the villain despite his ongoing abuse of his sons. We catch glimpses of how Carsten’s friend Brett views the situation as an outsider, and it’s tempting to agree with him. Carsten won’t allow it, however, revealing the details as though he’s developing the film for us. Readers should be forewarned that there are scenes of violence; I found them to be more intense than graphic, but because of the sensitive nature of family abuse cycles, some readers may find it more difficult to read those parts. Pushing the father to the side, we see that the story is really about family, one’s place in it and about where we come from and where we are headed.
Ultimately, this is far more about family, about where we come from and where we are going, than anything else. It’s rich and detailed and absolutely gorgeous. I cannot wait to read more from Victor Yates, especially if this is the quality of writing we can expect.
The characters and the plot focus on diversity both culturally and racially. In portraying the characters, author Yates interwove childhood parental physical abuse, homophobia and hate crimes and these sections are uncomfortable to read (especially for those who have experience any of this). We see how both abusers and victims think and behave and feel their anger and guilt. You might think it is an oxymoron to say that the prose reads like poetry but you only need experience the book to understand what I mean by that.
I suppose that we say that quite basically this is a m/m romance novel but it is also much more than that with its layers of emotion and dark threads running through it. Carsten found that it was much easier to deal with life as he saw it though his camera lens than to take it on as it really was. We sense his fear of facing life as it is.