Riverhead. Oct. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9780593087275. $27. F
DEBUt National Book Award 5 Under 35 honoree Washington follows up Lot, his LJ best-booked debut story collection, with an accomplished debut novel featuring cautious African American day care worker Benson and Mike, a Japanese American cook who’s more open and questing. Mike is estranged from his father, who returned home as their life in America fell apart; eventually, his mother returned as well. Benson, too, has issues with a family fractured by his father’s drinking and his mother’s remarriage. The two men have been living together in Houston for four years when Mike rushes back to Japan after learning that his father is dying, even as his mother returns to Houston for a visit and must stay alone with Benson. Cracks were already beginning to form between Mike and Benson, and Washington deftly strings together the ordinary moments that make and can break a relationship, resulting in an alternately told heart-on-sleeve narrative probing racial and gay identity, the ties between lovers and between parents and children, and the resonant idea that in the midst of that hot mess called human relationships we just have to figure things out.
VERDICT Briskly and brightly told, this deeply affecting work is an astonishingly rendered novel of love in crisis. Highly recommended.

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