Three Junes

threejunesSeveral years ago I first read this book when I lived in the UK.  I loved it.  I read a couple more of Julia Glass’s books that I didn’t enjoy as much.

Then, last year I read And The Dark and Sacred Night.  It was a sort of sequel to Three Junes.  Several of the characters come together decades later when Mal’s son reaches out to find his biological family.  It’s a good book.

But then I found out at the last minute that Julia Glass was doing a reading in my town and I dashed out to the event.  By the end there weren’t many people, so I grabbed my chance to meet glass and I bought another copy of Three Junes for her to sign.

She was very gracious and talked for a long time with us final stragglers about the characters in the two novels.

That evening made me want to try re-reading Three Junes.

As I read, I remembered my primary criticism of the book the first time I read it.  Three Junes is set up as a tryptic, with a shorter story at the beginning and end, with a longer story in the middle.  There are some characters that move through the stories, but the middle section is very different from the other two.  I wasn’t a big fan of sections 1 and 3, but I still loved section 2.

The middle is the story of Fenno and Mal, two gay men in NYC in the 90s.  Their relationship is love and yet it’s platonic.  Fenno is HIV negative and Mal is HIV positive.  They meet when Fenno opens a bookstore across the street from Mal’s apartment.  Mal asks Fenno to take his pet bird, which he can no longer have in his apartment due to concerns about his immune system.  Their friendship blossoms.

It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking glimpse into the the terrifying time in NYC history, when AIDS was running rampant and no one knew how to stop it.  Funerals were frequent and the diagnosis is a death sentence.  Mal in unflinching in his descriptions of his body’s betrayal.

As you read, you feel like you know Mal and Fenno.  Like you could walk through NYC and find Fenno’s bookstore, or search through the New York Times Archives for Mal’s reviews.

I wish Glass had written a whole book about those characters, rather than sandwich it between to lesser stories.

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