Meis, Vincent. “Four Calling Burds”, Fallen Bros. Press, 2019.
After their mother dies, the four Burd siblings go to Mexico where each faces his own midlife crisis. M is 47 and she wonders if it is already too late to transition to the male she feels inside. Audie is a gay male married to gay male and they are fathers to a bi-racial son. Yet he feels that something is not quite right. Lio is a charismatic guy yet he is totally hedonistic and this has cost him his marriage and his relationship with his daughter. AJ is the youngest sibling and married to a man who has gained strength from a fascist bully as president. While they are not a typical family, there are family ties that seem lost in each person’s self-absorption.
Author Vincent Meis has built four fascinating characters that slowly reveal something about their private lives. The siblings have not had the opportunity to bond as a family and now their mother’s death gives them a chance to repair that. They really come together when
two of them are kidnapped whilst on holiday in Mexico and the other two are tasked with raising money to ransom them and bring them back. When we meet the siblings, we are completely aware of their diversity and eve though this is something of a crime novel, it is really a celebration of diversity.
There is a lot happening in this something of a microcosm of modern relationships. We have a married gay couple raising their biological mixed-race son; a woman divorcing her husband mainly because of his political and non-inclusive views; a transgender schoolboy who becomes a man and causing his psychiatrist to face her own gender identity; a gay drag act that is finally accepted by his homophobic sibling and even more. Yet even with all of these themes, we never lose our way and each story is masterfully told and handled (something I have become used to in Vincent Meis’s writing). Love is what sustains the characters and propels the plot. I was lucky enough to be snowed into today so I could luxuriate in every word and I read the book in one sitting. Meis writes with compassion and he allows us to really get to know his characters.
There is a great deal of warmth and compassion in Four Calling Burds, and it was a refreshing tonic for me to immerse myself in it, after receiving what seems like an endless run of books about war, poverty and Dystopian futures; I enjoyed the book immensely, it is fair to say. Meis does not hold back on the way he feels about today’s presidential administration or this country’s immigration policies and we sense these almost all the way through. Because of that, I have to say that this is not a book for everyone but I wish everyone would read it. I enjoyed it so much that I plan to read it again.