Book Reviews

The Middle Between Us by Itamar S.N.

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Historical / 20th Century / Romance
Reviewed by Bob-O-Link on 08-November-2022

Book Blurb

Four tormented souls. Two impossible love stories. One inescapable fate.

The Middle Between Us delicately unfurls the love stories of two sets of couples, detached by time but brought together by fate. Where one is set in the artisanal streets of a 21st-century city life, the other depicts the breathtaking wild mountains of eastern Europe as it’s set ablaze by the religious zealotry of World War I. Where one revolves around two men coming to terms with their own sexual identities, the other forces its two young lovers apart in the face of insurmountable odds. Seemingly unrelated at first, the two star-crossed couples find out they are not only parallel – but deeply intertwined.

 

Book Review

This novel is, actually, two diverse stories separated by a wide time gap and geography. Yet the author has woven a singular experience for the reader, capturing attention and stirring important thoughts. But not to worry as the totality is quite satisfying.

 

In Tel Aviv, 2019, Ezer is a would-be painter, twenty-nine years old, and working as a bartender. He is also gay. At work he meets Niv, nearly forty, who runs an upscale art gallery – and they start to become close – which seems to mean that the gay pilot light is on, but no flame has yet ignited. The careful approach has a noir flavor, but their sexual attraction and growing relationship is quite restrained. Niv is a virgin to gay sex! The background of modern Tel Aviv is presented as a center for today’s people, attracting creatures of the night and people from all over – many of whom are looking for no more than transcendent experiences. Both Tel Aviv and Ezer seem worn out. Ezer plods through his working evenings, disappointed in his artistic aspirations, and now alone. Meeting Niv seems almost unreal to Ezer. The author’s style presents Ezer for who he is and also how he does - intense at work, and almost with a manic approach to his craft.

 

The general milieu is intellectual – painting, galleries, even a reference to Carl Orff’s musical oratorio, Carmina Burana. Events and hints of mysticism are constants in ‘The Middle Between’. This is evidenced by Niv’s psychological reaction to Ezer’s art (right before they share a sexless night’s sleep together!).

 

The alternate tale is set in 1914, in Nagoya-Karabakh in the Caucasus. There is a growing tension between the Muslims and Christians of the area, and as history buffs know, with the onset of World War I, the Christian Armenians were essentially expelled from imperial Turkey and suffered massive slaughter. The main characters of this story are Anush, a fifteen-year-old Muslim shepherd, and Katya, almost fifteen and a Christian. Their chance meeting occurs at the height of the onset of their puberty. Particularly for Anush, that means intrigue, wonder, excitement, sexual arousal. Anush is from a traditional and observant family, a dreamer, a flute player, and an occasional writer.

 

It would be unfair to paraphrase the insightful and engaging writing, merely to supplement my prosaic prose. Anush and Katya, young and typical as any Romeo and Juliet, fall in love and eventually plan to run off together. The text is so very satisfying, but even the reader knows the events are not to be conducive to personal happiness.

 

World War I upends their world and brings their personal lives into the distant conflict.

 

The two threads of the book are mildly interspersed, but certainly not to the point of confusion. Each progresses independently, and could almost be read separately. But then comes crises. The more historic tale, predictably, given the adverse factors piled on by the situation. The current crisis seems the likely result of character flaws and imperfections. Being twenty-nine, Ezer’s portrait is more complex than those who lived a century earlier, more detailed, though Niv, sadly but “… an aging homo… a self-loathing coward, homo!”. He questions the future for love between men, as he is already middle-aged and sees himself as flawed. To prevent Ezer seeing his inner turmoil, Niv minimizes communications

 

The book is an ideal construction, but to preserve the readers’ unspoiled approach, I chose to minimize revelations and eschew my usual wont to print clever textual quotes. Nonetheless, there are – Romance! Surprise! Difficulties to bear!

 

There is a wonderful plot reconciliation, an actual meeting in the middle, and thus the reader should be able to close the book with a great sense of fulfillment.

 

Now – the books – because they begin as really two seemingly independent stories, are not easy to just read slowly. The reader surely will want to rush forward, quickly capturing the plot, but may also feel the need to reread sections for the excellent choice of literary idioms and sharp ideas. Each story, without reference to the actual ages of the main characters, is about maturing, growing people. Each is also about experiencing difficult loves – making choices and yet always missing what hasn’t been chosen. One love story is straight; one is a commonly strained gay romance. Though predictable (because of blurb and by-word), the author mystically binds these stories into one. One what? An excellent and memorable reading experience! Let me say that if we just consider this novel as a sort of lay sermon, joined, these two stories become a proper lesson.

 

Attention, here’s a reward for reading this far - or useless/useful information: Did you know that a Bob-O-Link (or, should you favor the Irish, Bob O'Link) is an American songbird with plumage that’s streaky brown above and yellowish brown below – except for the breeding season when the male is chiefly black and white.

 

Now I can share additional, pertinent information useful for trivia, or some TV game show, or even a very weird romantic conversation. So, did you know that a group of Bob-O-Links is called a “chain”. (The History of Ideas Blog by John Ptak) Now feel free to wonder, (a) if smoldering, are they a chain of fire? Or, (b) if trying towing them, are you pulling their chain? Or, (c) and here’s a stretch, is sending them seasonal greeting cards called chain mail?

 

Aren’t we all lucky that I am quite a singular Bob-O-Link. (BTW, if you run into me while I’m smooching another Bob-O-Link, and I’m colored black and white, please pretend you don’t know me.)

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by the author for the purpose of a review.

 

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 270 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 01-August-2022
Price $11.91 paperback (ebook to follow)
Buy Link https://www.amazon.com/Middle-Between-Us-Novel/dp/B0B7QLGK1W