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Full Circle by Michael Thomas Ford

Full Circle

by Michael Thomas Ford

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My take on "Full Circle" may be different from most others as it is a novel clearly intended for a gay male audience. As a hetero male, I would naturally read it differently. I have a brother who is gay, and several close friends who are gay, which I suppose influenced my decision to read the book in the first place.

"Full Circle" is written in a memoir-like style. It is very easy to feel close to the narrator, Ned. He is likeable, somewhat reserved most of the time, and usually looking out for the welfare of his friends and lovers over his own. The story opens in the present - 2007 I suppose, since that was it's publication date - with Ned nearing 60 years old, living a quiet peaceful life in Maine with his partner Thayer. He has shut out his past for many years, but a phone call from his childhood best friend, and first lover, Jack, sends him into emotional turmoil, and he tells Thayer his life story. The story can be broken into several segments: childhood, adolescence and discovery of his homosexuality (late 50s early 60s), college, service in Vietnam, living the gay lifestyle of San Francisco in the 70's, coping with the AIDS crisis in New York in the 80's, and then we skip the 90s and return to the present as Ned finishes telling the story to his partner, and goes off to Chicago to face his demons and conclude the book.

I was born in 1965, so the character of Ned was a little ahead of me. In addition to the great story, I learned a little about gay culture history in the US from the book. I read one negative critique that complained that Ned met everyone in gay history, was at every gay historical event, and lived every gay man's fantasies. I didn't know much about the San Francisco scene of the 70s, and during the 80s I recall the AIDS crisis as a tragic news event. But amazingly, to this day I don't know anyone who died from it or whose close loved ones died from it. Those chapters touched me the most. Ned volunteers for an organization that delivers lunches to home-bound AIDS patients in New York, and for several years he makes regular visits to John, a queen who lived for opera. Though a minor character, John's death was the saddest moment in the book for me, and left me in tears.

We never get to know Thayer, which disappointed me. I immediately liked him in the opening chapter, but since Ned is telling his history to Thayer - there is no reason for him to relate the years that they had been together.

I doubt there would be much appeal in "Full Circle" for most female or heterosexuals, but that's kind of sad. I feel like I have a slightly better understanding of what my brother and my gay friends have experienced emotionally in their lives, and since finishing the book a few days ago, I have frequently found myself thinking about its events and characters, which is surely a sign of good fiction. ( )
  fingerpost | Jan 29, 2012 |
A satisfying romp through history -- the history I've lived through and remember. With a deft writing style, Ford shows what it was like to grow up gay in the 50s and 60s, and how we did form families -- we just didn't realize it until we got older. From the perspective of a man in his mid-50s, the protaganist looks back on his lifelong friendship with his one-time next-door neighbor, born just an hour (but also a day) before him.

The attention to detail was wonderful -- especially the references to TV shows and other cultural events. But, the real meat was the relationships between the central characters and how the evolved, but persisted despite the immense change in the lives of the characters. The last 60 years have been a truly adventurous ride for those of us who grew up without even words to describe ourselves. I'm amazed at our progress and yet pissed that we have to fight on for our basic rights and respect.

This book showed the incredible resiliency of our generation and our drive to form family on our own terms. I'll look for more of Mr. Ford's writing.
  SSchnell | Jan 25, 2010 |
A full scale epic journey of the friendship of two gay men, spanning 50 years, from early childhood, through their teens, adulthood and beyond. This is a grand, sweeping novel of friendship,love, laughter, tears and heartbreak in the tradition of FELICE PICANO's "LIKE PEOPLE IN HISTORY". Mr Ford writes with such honesty and truthful emotion that I found myself re-reading passages just for the beauty of his prose. This is a great book. ( )
  silversurfer | Aug 3, 2009 |
Fictional memoir of a gay mans life. What a relief to find good gay literature that is not one more coming of age/teen angst love story!! ( )
  ElTomaso | Jul 10, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0758210582, Paperback)

History professor Ned Brummel is living happily with his partner of twelve years in small-town Maine when he receives a phone call from his estranged friend--Jack--telling him that another friend--Andy--is very ill and possibly near death. As Ned boards a plane to Chicago on his way to his friend's bedside, he embarks on another journey into memory, examining the major events and small moments that have shaped his world and his relationships with these two very different, very important men.

Growing up together through the restrictive 1950's and confusing '60's, Jackson "Jack" Grace and Ned Brummel took solace in their love for each other. But once they arrive at college in 1969 and meet handsome farm boy Andy Kowalski, everything changes. Despite Andy's apparent heterosexuality, both Jack and Ned fall hard for him, straining their close friendship. Soon, the three men will become involved in a series of intense liaisons and bitter betrayals, coming together and flying apart, as they alternately hurt, love, shape, and heal one another over the course of years. From the heady, drug- and sex-fueled days of San Francisco in the wild seventies to the haunting spectre of AIDS in the eighties and the righteous activism of the nineties, their relationship transforms and grows, reflecting the changes going on around them. Now, together again in the most crucial and intimate of settings, Ned, Jack, and Andy have another chance to confront the damage of the past and embrace the bonds of friendship and love that have stood the test of time.

"Impactful. . .real. . .Ford's beautiful story makes it all seem possible and believable. . .these are rich characters, heartfelt descriptions and real-life happenings that resonate. . .allow yourself to get lost in this story." --The Lambda Book Report

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:22 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

History professor Ned Brummel is living happily with his partner of 12 years in small-town Maine when he receives a call from his estranged friend, Jack, telling him that another friend, Andy, is very ill and possibly near death. The news shatters the peace of his world and awakens memories that have been dormant for years.… (more)

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