This is Edward—the ranconteur, the sage, the liar.
Everyone has their own Edward—a kaleidoscope of images struggling to define a man who has never let anyone get too close. But now, Edward is dying, and all of his loved ones are desperate to understand him, to connect fully with him, before it’s too late.
In this beautiful and haunting novel, Lewis DeSimone explores the hidden depths of love, the struggle to maintain a balance between connection and individuality. Set against the backdrop of a sea change in gay life, as the drive for assimilation has begun to trump the distinct characteristics that were once a source of pride, The Heart’s History deftly shifts perspectives to paint a compelling portrait of a man and a community on the cusp of a critical transition.
Read an excerpt.
PRAISE FOR THE HEART’S HISTORY
Lewis DeSimone’s Heart’s History is a novel of trouble and wonder. It moves in unexpected directions and looks into the complicated, real-life struggles that lesser writers tend to simplify or avoid. It is adult in its scope, and generous in its understanding of how loss changes us as both groups and individuals. As soon as I finished, I wanted to start reading all over again.
—Paul Lisicky, author of The Burning House
DeSimone's second novel (after Chemistry) is a thoughtful and engaging examination of contemporary gay life and love. When Edward, a 35-year-old Boston architect, introduces his new boyfriend, Robert, to his tight-knit circle of longtime friends, none of Edward's cohort expects the relationship to last--Edward has an abysmal romantic track record, and the generational differences between the two (Robert is 10 years Edward's junior) manifest in the ways each man navigates their relationship; Edward remembers "the romance of secrecy" when homosexuality was still a taboo, whereas Robert and his generation "openly proclaimed their right[s]." Soon, Edward tests positive for AIDS, and his body fails to respond to treatment. Set against the backdrop of Edward's illness, the next four years sees various friends and former lovers embrace their individual connections to Edward while discussing the opportunities and challenges of monogamy, polyandry, safe sex, gay/straight relationships, and sexual politics. DeSimone's facility with the minutiae of everyday life and the rhythms of friendship brings depth to this timely story of ordinary individuals struggling to bulwark their ideas of love against shifting personal and cultural tides.
Lewis DeSimone is a great writer. His prose is thoughtful, deep, layered and real. His characters are living. It’s about love and sex and AIDS, about human connection and the ultimate unknowability of another person. It’s about the slow assimilation of a larger gay culture that used to be more angry and badass. It’s a really good book written by a very skilled author.
—Michelle Tea, author of Valencia
Lewis DeSimone’s beautiful novel captures the many facets of contemporary gay life, from sharp humor, long-lasting friendships, and the urban club scene to the insecurities of aging, the uncertainties of romance, and the agonies of a loved one’s loss. It also illuminates a difficult and inescapable truth: we mortals are all elusive mysteries, all in the end unknowable, but that mystery is the very fuel of love.
—Jeff Mann, author of Fog: A Novel of Desire and Reprisal and Purgatory: A Novel of the Civil War
With admirable sensitivity, Lewis DeSimone reaches deep into a close community of friends to explore the textured lives of gay men, their urgencies haunted by the traumas and anxieties of the past, illuminated by their current (sometimes troubled) affinities and relationships. At the center of this circle is the endearing couple, Robert and Edward, their touching story a catalyst that allows those near them (including the reader) to consider the power of commitment, the grace of forgiveness. The Heart’s History is a stunning portrait of love.
—Rigoberto González, author of Butterfly Boy
In The Heart’s History Lewis DeSimone gives us a profoundly moving story about reaching out and pulling back, about intimacy and mystery, written in shapely and nuanced prose. Even better, it also reminds us of important truths about life, gay and otherwise: that time changes everything, that love changes shape, and that friendship can change a world, if we let it. That makes it a book to read closely,with tenderness … and repeatedly.
—Peter Dubé, author of Hovering World and Subtle Bodies
Yes, times are changing and for the better. But even with the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts, the circle of friends at the center of The Heart's History finds that "nothing was easy anymore. Everything had something attached to it. There was history behind it all." Edward has finally found love in a younger man just before realizing he contracted HIV from a previous lover. Harlan dodges his pals' meddling matchmaking, unsure if he even wants to settle down. And Kyle treats his best girlfriend like a partner because Edward will never be more than his friend. Even the giddy newlyweds Greg and Victor have to navigate a future with no precedents, no former generations to act as guides. In a crisp panoramic prose, with each chapter smoothly changing point of view, Lewis DeSimone shows this circle stumbling and dancing toward middle age with more and more questions about everything from politics, marriage, and parenting, to suburbia, open relationships, and grief. There are no answers, though DeSimone offers plenty of sharp humor and insight, as well as the consolation that friends have each other to lean on, their own history to write and remember. The Heart's History invites you to become part of this circle, and in it you will see (and probably better understand) your own circle too.
—Michael Montlack, author of Cool Limbo
From the outset this is a beautifully-written and well-crafted book.DeSimone is clearly a writer who considers each sentence, and the result is good, clean, succinct prose. ... DeSimone has given us a big-hearted, earnest novel that does what novels should do: he’s painted a picture of the intimate lives of people living through a particular time, and he’s given us a character—Edward—and a story that truly resonates.
—Trebor Healey (author of Through It Came Bright Colors and A Horse Named Sorrow
These pages seem to turn themselves. The characters are so real that by the time DeSimone has introduced them all in the opening chapter as they gather at a Provincetown beachside home, they already seem like old friends. DeSimone accomplishes this with his uncanny gift for dialogue that sounds spoken instead of written and an unerring eye for detail. ... But anything I can say about The Heart’s History will only pale in comparison to the work itself. Genuine, heartfelt and true, this is a beautiful book that will have you laughing and crying simultaneously. Highly recommended.
—Jerry Wheeler, Out in Print
Where DeSimone really succeeds is in how he delves into the heart and the individual's need for connection. ... The Heart’s History is an intimate portrait of the individuals and families that made up the gay community during a time of significant change, but more accurately it is a portrait of the human heart, the struggle, the hopes and joys that come from that search for connection through love.
—Impressions of a Reader
Beautifully nuanced, and much recommended. Five stars out of five! —Bob Lind, Gay/Lesbian Fiction Book Reviews
DeSimone has, once again, blown me away. ... This is a book that must be read and relished.
2012 Rainbow Awards: Best Gay Contemporary General Fiction, Third Place
The shifting 3d person POV all focusing on each narrator's friendship/love for Edward works beautifully here, with the author providing sympathetic, detailed portraits of man and a subtle timeline of the impact of AIDS over the years. This is one of those books that makes it a joy to be a reader for the Awards.