Kessler, Alan S. “Gables Court”, Black Rose Writing, 2018.
Looking for Samuel
There was a time when sex was an act of love and not as much a recreational activity that it has become. I know that might be hard to believe but I remember that time well. Samuel Baas also feels that way but he is living in today’s world and as a virgin at 24 years old and a man who wants love and marriage before sex, he is not having an easy time. He as raised in New England where, it is thought, everything is quite staid so when he moves to Miami, he is quite shocked by the free lifestyle there. True romantics have a hard time with the freedom and abandon of the 21st century. Samuel meets Kate and falls for her but she is not interested in marriage and prefers, at least in Samuel’s eyes, to live immorally.
Samuel is a lawyer and a nice Jewish guy who represents an accused Nazi war criminal (my mother would have said that he forgot he was Jewish) and Haitians who, if deported, will have to face retribution. Samuel’s father is a head of a crime family (not a very Jewish career) and takes a special interest in his son’s legal career. Samuel is preoccupied with love, both its definition and finding it. He is, to put it plainly, lonely.
Samuel is a complex and flawed character yet we find ourselves loving him. His father holds strong sway over him and pays for his apartment (at a dingy motel, Gables Court) and found him his first job out of law school. Samuel is very aware that his father pulls the strings that make his son walk and of course he is aware that his dad is a mobster. Samuel’s job at the RHB offices are not exactly what he was expecting. His boss, Mr. Eldridge, has never been to court and the business’s secretary smokes like a smokestack. His day did not start so good anyway since had to walk (he is waiting for his car to join him) to work after discovering large roaches in his apartment. Mr. Eldridge informs Samuel that the firm represents a very important real estate developer (meaning slumlord) by the name of Baxter and Elridge wants Samuel to sign eviction notices for the client and there are many he wants to oust. In this present situation, nothing seems to work out the way our hero had planned. It’s almost as if Samuel comes across as the typical nebbish who can’t find romance, has a lousy job and his only friend is a teenager named Gary who he met by the pool at the “apartment complex.”
Now I am sure you are wondering where this story is going but not to worry, this going to be a fun and a bit painful read. On the other hand, you might ask why you should care about this Sam who seems to have nothing going for him. The picture I have presented so far kind of makes us feel sorry for the guy but he is no nerd. What we really see here is the difference between dreams and reality. Sam has motivation but does not know how to use it but then his father was no great example. Yet his father has protected him and provided for him but was unable to provide him with a sense of morality. I see Samuel as a young man on a journey that will lead him maturation and perhaps even acceptance of himself and of others. He suffers and he questions as he struggles with finding out who he is. Law is meant to be a moral professional yet there is nothing moral about evictions; love is meant to be beautiful but he has yet to see its beauty.
Suffering is one thing we all have in common as humans and it comes in many forms and varieties. Samuel’s search for true love leads to many dead ends, making him question (as we all do at one time or another) whether there is such a thing or if we are even capable of seeing it when it’s right in front of us. Meanwhile, he struggles with the morality of his profession, chosen for him by his father, and with concepts of spirituality, identity, and faith, both as they pertain to himself and to others.
Samuel seems to be clueless and his naiveté angers us and makes us want to slap him but then we realize that he is one of many like himself. I so badly want him to succeed in finding love and companionship and understand who he is. On the other hand (am I am a bit embarrassed to say this), I see a lot of myself in him. My father was not a mobster but a rabbi; a man with strict morals and devotion to his religion and I struggled with acceptance and finding myself just as so many others do. We understand what Samuel faces when we see that he was raised with wealth and privilege and by father who gave him whatever he wanted or needed. When he finally decides that he has to be his own man and leave his father’s influence, he is frightened and desperate but he is doing the right thing. It takes courage to leave someone who has given you everything and we applaud his move. And as he does, he stops being the nebbish and becomes a mensch. We see a passion and a strength in him. As he approaches new beginnings which I do not think he would have been able to do if he had not had the bad experiences in the past.
Alan Kessler has created an unforgettable character in Samuel and as I said before, I believe that is because we see ourselves in him. His struggle is to find his place and try to find love and be loved. We are with Samuel for ten years. During that period, he meets a lot of people and we see Kessler’s skill at creating characters. Samuel begins with a life of desperation and loneliness, living under his father’s wing. When he breaks away, he is free to search for what he wants and needs. There is a lot that I have not mentioned here but then I might have mentioned too much. Be that as it may, I have to say that I loved this point. I even loved the pain I got from remembering my own past. This is not just about Samuel—it is about all of us who have the moxie to admit it (and even those who don’t).