Never a Hero

Never a Hero

Marie Sexton

The Tucker Springs, Colorado, novels are unique in that they feature a variety of authors who provide engaging stories, all of which highlight how opposites attract. For example, in Second Hand, a Hispanic pawn shop owner and a jilted straight guy, who’s getting rid of his fiancée’s things, mesh. In Dirty Laundry, a nerd entomology grad student hooks up with a gay bar bouncer. So it’s no surprise that in this engrossing novel a hermit with a congenitally amputated arm and a debilitating stutter is paired with a gregarious veterinarian.

Owen Meade is the adult product of a belittling mother. Fortunately, he can work from home, the upper story of a very nice house in Tucker Springs, where he enjoys the piano music the neighbor downstairs plays. One handed because of a birth defect, Owen knows he can never play the piano and is devastated when the neighbor moves out and the music stops.

His new neighbor, veterinarian Nick Reynolds tells him that the previous tenant left the piano, but he doesn’t play. As they get to know one another, Owen realizes Nick is different from anyone else he’s met. Nick isn’t put off by either Owen’s physical difference or his stutter. In fact, Owen’s stunned to learn that Nick’s younger sister also is a victim of congenital amputation.

When he meets the flamboyant June, she’s delighted to find that Owen’s handless arm is the opposite of hers. They can take piano lessons because together they make up one player. Owen takes a lot of persuading, both from Nick and June. But he takes the plunge when he realizes his mother will be appalled that her handicapped son is undertaking something so ambitious and will show up in front of people at a recital.

Liking Owen is key to liking the book. Fortunately, despite his mother’s insistence that Owen can’t speak properly and must hide his lack of hand, Owen comes across as a gentle young man who has finally broken away and now must figure out how to live in a world that often stares at him. He’s sympathetic without being cloying or pitiful.

Nick and his brash sister, who doesn’t see her arm as an impediment to doing anything she wants to try, are just the right ones to push Owen completely out of his shell and into the real world. It helps that they are in Tucker Springs where a motley group of gays live and work.

Written in first person from Owen’s point of view, however, the story doesn’t give readers an adequate idea about why Nick sees Owen as more than a friend. In fact, June and Owen seem a better match except for Owen’s sexual orientation. While Nick understands what Owen’s going through, he isn’t privy to Owen’s more competent and smoother self which readers can witness.

Despite the caveat above, like the other entries in the Tucker Springs series, this one is entertaining and thought-provoking. It will be interesting to see what Sexton and the other authors come up with next.