Every once in a while, I come across a book that doesn’t quite fit into the normal mold of what I tend to read, but which blows me away. Stray is one of those books. The story follows Terry, Marc, and Dan as they struggle to deal with their individual problems and with young adulthood. Each character is flawed in their own way, and their flaws resonate as believable and real; one’s we have within ourselves at one point or another in our lives.
Written from a first person narrative, we see the world and experience the story through Terry’s eyes. Terry has a sharp wit coupled with a sometimes nasty tongue and isn’t afraid to use either. When his flatmate, Marc, brings a stray person, Daniel, into their home. Daniel becomes an immediate thorn in Terry’s side and he makes no bones about his distaste for Dan’s presence in their home. As the story progresses, we watch Terry struggle with his overly biting remarks and behavior. We question why he is so tough and hard-shelled on the outside when snippets of a kind and caring person can be seen on the inside, especially through Daniel’s behavior towards him.
Daniel is the opposite. He wears his heart on his sleeve, leaving him vulnerable and sensitive to the scathing treatment he receives from Terry. But he is relentless, knowing what he wants and what he sees in Terry. Younger than both Terry and Marc, Dan is slightly immature and can be vindictive, but the sweetness in him is unmistakable.
There was one underlying theme that struck me as slightly forced. Dan's parents do not accept him as gay and want to send him to a camp where he will undergo treatment to 'change him'. This serves as the primary conflict and, while handled well, took away from the emotional barriers Terry needed to break down in order to open up to Dan's affection. He was able to hide behind 'doing a good deed' rather than fully admitting his feelings.
What I loved about Stray was how the story, through the inclusion of imperfect characters, struck a chord at once believable and real. I have known (and been) both Terry and Daniel at one point in my life. Watching their struggles and feelings evolve and the decisions they make was an emotional journey; an experience of thinking about people and how they must take risks in order to change.
Stray had a strong plot and was difficult and sad at times, but it was a good read and one I would recommend to others.
Bar worker and serial slut Terry Seymour is hardly charm personified when it comes to romance. In fact, he doesn’t believe in love at all despite his latent desire for his best friend of fourteen years, builder Marc Pierce.
Dan Hutchinson is a young, homeless man living in a derelict house Marc’s halfway to renovating. When Marc announces Dan’s moving in for a while, Terry is understandably miffed. After all, it hasn’t been that long since Marc spilt with his boyfriend of a year, so why is he intent on bringing a total stranger into their home?
It seems to Terry there’s more to this arrangement than meets the eye. Marc must be providing Dan with food and lodgings in exchange for sex. And with the lusty vibes Dan sends his way, it’s not long before Terry succumbs to the boy’s talents between the sheets. But carrying on with Dan behind his best friend’s back is not easy. Or desirable. And when Terry’s plans to oust Dan fail, he’s the one who finds himself out in the cold.
Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Male/male sexual practices.