Book Reviews

Life is Good and Other Lies by Sophia Soames and Magdalena Di Sotru

Genre Gay / Trans* / Contemporary / Mature Lovers / Fiction
Reviewed by ParisDude on 17-October-2022

Book Blurb

This is not a romance. This is what happens when life goes on, when people grow and fall out of sync. Not out of love; some people are just meant to be.

Thomas at least hopes that is the case, even though he sometimes feels like he’s clinging to his marriage by a brittle thread.

Frank clutches to the scraps that are left, knowing he’s the root cause of Thomas’ grey hairs, their kids being hormonal monsters and his own sanity being questionable at the best of times.

Gabriel needs to stop worrying and take control of his life, but with young kids and a body that refuses to do what it’s supposed to do—to sustain and nourish and build muscle to keep bones in place—his feels like a traitor, laughing in his face when he struggles to keep it together. He knows he is loved. His kids are everything. But his marriage feels like a distant memory, and he’s tumbling from one disaster into another. It’s just…life.

Bruno thought this holiday would bring them closer together as a family. Isn’t that what a trip abroad is supposed to do? Four weeks in the Swedish mosquito-infested countryside, sharing a farm with strangers. He should have known better.

Life is good. But the rest? Lies. All lies.


Book Review

People—writers—who are capable of creating a book together, working on it in twos, threes, or even more… I don’t know how they do it (my own creative process is way too chaotic to allow me to involve anyone else), so I always feel the need to shout out, “Wow! Kudos!”, no matter what the outcome looks like. When I closed this novel, I was reduced to whispering it, however. Whispering it in awe because the story, the characters, the setting, the ins and outs, the twists and turns, they all blended together so perfectly and made this a real page-turner that prevented me, last weekend, to make any headway with my current favorite TV shows.

As the blurb states, this is not a romance. It’s quite difficult, in fact, to find the right boxes to tick, the right tropes to ascribe. As keywords go, I’d use mature love, family (families, even), marriage and married couples, queer dads with kids, holidays, Scandinavia, hurtful pasts, healing, trans issues, bonding, friendship, first love (which appears toward the end), and teenagers, to quote but a few.

The storyline looks simple. Thomas and Frank, a gay couple from Oslo in their forties, drive across the border to Sweden with their two kids, the sixteen-year-old twins Fredrik and Marie, for their month-long summer holidays. Once again, they’re heading for the old farmhouse lost in the middle of nowhere that Frank has inherited from his aunt Bella at her death, some years back. Not that anyone is looking forward to it; the remote lakeside house has never become a symbol for peace, tranquillity, a return to the roots, or enjoyable vacations for anyone. Where the teenagers are concerned, the reason for it is simple: there’s no WiFi, no Internet, no TV, not even the shoddiest network coverage. Nothing, nada, zilch. Only nature and their two daddies. And those two have issues. God yes, issues that sometimes feel higher than the Everest, larger than the Pacific ocean, bigger than the whole universe. Not issues with each other, but each for himself. What with their jobs, their daily stress, their worries about the kids, money, time, they never seem to be able to deal with them like adults are supposed to do.

This year, things might even be a bit more complicated than normally. As maintaining an old, half-crumbling summer house is expensive, Frank and Thomas have decided to put out an AirBnB ad for the smaller cabin next to the main house. And someone has rented it within minutes. As far as they know, it’s another gay couple from Germany, Bruno and Gabriel, who plan to join them together with their own three kids: Andreas, seventeen, and the seven-year-old twins Lilly and Lottie. Little do Frank and Thomas know that that encounter will change their lives. Because Bruno and Gabriel have their own issues, their own problems to solve. And yet… they turn out to be the perfect guys for the two Norwegians to become friends with. Through snippets, conversations, heartfelt exchanges, in twos, in threes, all four of them, they (re)discover some essential truths: that someone who knows how to listen and gives fresh, unexpected feedback is more precious than all the gold in the world; that sharing is the cement of all relationships, romantic or otherwise; and that each of the two couples contains more mutual love than there is water in the oceans.

I confess, in my current state of mind, this turned out to be the perfect read. Messy stories about messy characters (somewhat Sophia’s trademark, a penchant the co-writer Magdalena apparently shares) who risked to drown in their issues at almost every turn of page, but who somehow always managed to keep afloat, as if by a miracle. I found it a bit disconcerting at first to get four points of view (the four adult men) that alternated from chapter to chapter. Add the five kids, and it was hard to remember who was who. But as the story flowed on, it became easier to relate to each of the characters (all in all, it was a small cast of nine, after all, with the late Bella coming in as a “ghostly” presence toward the end) and to not mix them up (which I did at the beginning, pardon my old brain). And God, did I relate. I laughed with them, cried with them, hurt with them, got angry, was soothed, felt pain, angst, love… So much love, indeed. Come what may, Frank loves Thomas, Thomas loves Frank. Come what may, Bruno loves Gabriel, Gabriel loves Bruno. Come what may, they love their kids.

An emotional roller-coaster laid out in easy, but lush writing, everything painted in most vivid colors that made me really feel the stories, live them. Yes, each of the four adults, on whom the book mainly focuses, was a mess - their backstories were uncovered little by little, which made me turn the pages with an undisguised urgency to know more. A self-created and self-maintained mess, as is often the case. They all fought with their frailties, their fears, their insecurities, their questions, to which there were no answers (or at least, no easy ones). And yet, all thoses messes didn’t feel made up, didn’t strike me as plot twists invented by the two writers; they were simply expressions of that huge mess we all know and experience, that mess called life.

In turns heart-wrenching and heartwarming, playing with my emotions like a professional juggler plays with his/her juggling devices, the story took me in and made me swim effortlessly in its waves, up and down, down and up again. Beautiful descriptions of landscapes I’d love to explore (minus the “mozzies,” please), astute observations, discoveries, conversations with the touch of truth good writing always provides, three-dimensional and easily lovable characters with a healthy dose of hurt on one side, love on the other—that was what I found in this novel. A novel I highly recommend and the sequel of which I’m looking forward to with sincere joy.



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


Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 316 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 15-October-2022
Price $5.99 ebook, $12.99 paperback, $16.99 hardcover
Buy Link