Poff, Nick. “The Handyman’s History”, (“The Handyman” Series), Old Spruce Productions, 2019.
The Handyman is Finally Back
I have often wondered what happened to Nick Poff’s, “The Handyman Series; I remembered that I had read and reviewed the three books that made up the series and then I received a surprise when book 4 arrived in the mail. Our handyman, Ed Stephens, as it was once the gay everyman for me (like his creator Nick Poff). He is not necessarily one of the guys and he is most certainly not a stereotype—- he just happens to be a man who likes men.
The past year has not been good for Ed and his partner, Rick Benton; their benefactor, Hilda Penfield died and they miss the peace they once shared at Penfield Manor and hope that it will return after they finish being the hosts for Claire’s (Rick’s sister) wedding to Matt Croasdale. Just as they thought that things were quieting down, Rick’s boss, Vince, involves the in some new activities. Ed and Rick both find themselves involved in new activities. Vince suddenly realizes the opportunities that are available in the sudden expansion of Porterfield. He and Rick have become the leaders for an important redevelopment project and Ed’s innocent suggestions about the revival of a local festival leads to his becoming a member of the Porterfield Days Association, and the additional responsibilities that go along with that.
It’s Rick’s discovery of a tombstone in a town cemetery that caught Ed’s curiosity about the background of his father’s family and he questions the relationship that he and his father shared. Ed hopes by knowing about and learning some of the Stephens family secrets will help him deal with his unresolved feelings and hopefully put them to bed forever. Now if you have read any the precursors to this, you will recognize some of the returning characters— Norma, Ed’s mother with a tongue as sharp as a razor and a quick mind, Laurie, Ed’s sister and Effie Maude, the housekeeper at Penfield Manor and who entertains Ed and Rick with her observations and what she has to say. Friend Gordy is also back and he see him really trying to build a relationship in the early years of AIDS. I am so glad that Poff included AIDS in the story; we can never allow ourselves to forget the disease or who we lost. As AIDS spreads, we see the hostility of the larger community and the lack of tolerance and compassion that we need to bury our dead with honor.
It is 1985 and the epidemic is at its height. Ed is forced to deal with the reality of being a gay man in a small town but he gets support from a client of his who is visually impaired he unexpectedly finds support from two unlikely sources, a visually impaired client and a new clergyman in town. With “The Handyman’s History”, I was able to meander with my memories while also using them as well as a basis for then and now. It is those who are not here, those who paid the ultimate price with their lives so that we can be who we are that are important to us. And yes, those who lived through AIDS like Ed and Rick, they too are heroes. As we move forward and backwards, we see the need for each other and we watch as Ed and Rick become more and more committed to each other.
Now I need a moment to admonish Nick Poff and let him know that we do not want to have to wait for years in between books. We had to wait for eleven years for this one and while it was worth the wait, you could have also written another ten during that period. You have too much talent to keep it to yourself.
While I know I did not go into detail about the plot here, there is a reason for that. This is a book that I love and when that happens I am reluctant to share because I want it for me. Also by not summarizing, I get to see what others think.