Friday, January 19, 2018

Second Chances

T.A. Webb
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Mark Jennings is at a crossroads. His finance job in the Atlanta nonprofit scene stresses him out, his mother is dying, and his relationship with Brian Jacobs has crashed and burned. He needs a distraction, some way to relax, and a massage seems like just the thing. He never expected his massage therapist, Antonio Roberto, to become his best friend.

Despite their differences—Antonio is a divorced single father—the two men forge a firm friendship that weathers Mark’s reconciliation with Brian and Antonio’s questionable taste in women. Over the years, Antonio remains constant in his support, though others in Mark’s life come and go through a revolving door.

When a young boy runs away from the group home where he works, Mark finds another door opening. Through it all he holds on to the things his loved ones taught him—about family, about friends and lovers, about life and death. Most importantly, he realizes that sometimes the greatest gift of all is a second chance.

My Review

Even though many of my friends heaped enthusiastic reviews on this story, and I’ve read and enjoyed T.A. Webb’s reviews and know he’s a thoughtful guy who writes from the heart, I still put off reading this.

My mom died recently, so I wasn’t sure my somewhat fragile emotions would handle reading about a man who is losing his mother to liver disease and at the same time trying to get over the pain of betrayal by his cheating ex.

I’m so glad I put my misgivings aside and snagged a copy.

Told from the perspective of Mark Jennings, we are privy to his thoughts, feelings, memories, and reactions to the people and situations in his life. I really liked being in his head. Even though many of Mark’s thoughts and casual conversations were peppered with f-bombs and delivered with a subtle sense of humor, his life and his pain were very real and his character felt like a composite of people I’ve known. This made him so easy to relate to, and his experiences that much more heartbreaking and believable.

“You listen close, ‘cause I ain’t saying this but once. That boy is my family now. He’s got a home, he’s got people that love him. And don’t think we don’t know how to fuckin’ hide a body when we need to.”

Now who wouldn’t want a guy like Mark in their family?

This is a story of love, forgiveness, loss, and hope. It is a story of friendship and families, made and born. It is about imperfect people who made mistakes. It is told over a period of 11 years, so nothing ever felt rushed.

I loved the exploration of youth homelessness and foster care in the US.

A couple of gripes:

- Certain events were given only minor coverage when I would have preferred to witness them.
- Some events felt a little too easy, too contrived, and didn’t jive with the rest of the story.

I’m glad I finally read this story. Along with the many tears I shed were plenty of smiles. I’m very much looking forward to a sequel.

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