The Kingdom of Sand

Farrar Jun. 2022. 272p. ISBN 9780374600969. $27. F
Florida is the real star of Holleran’s first novel in 16 years (after Grief), narrated by a middle-aged, closeted gay man who moved there during the height of the AIDS crisis, to care for his aging parents. The supporting role goes to the narrator’s close friend Earl, whom he met when they were both out cruising at the local boat dock, one of their small town’s popular hook-up spots. A retired accounting instructor, Earl has a passion for opera and also devotedly watches classic films. Although no romance develops between the two men, Earl enthusiastically shares his vast music knowledge while the two easily bond over the movies of Barbara Stanwick, Myrna Loy, and Carole Lombard. About the narrator himself, not much is given away, apart from his age—neither his name nor his occupation is known. As he watches his friend’s health decline, the narrator’s greatest fear is that he will die alone.
VERDICT From a winner of the Publishing Triangle’s Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement, this moody meditation on loneliness and aging offers a picture of a life not lived to the fullest. Read it for the North Florida atmosphere and for the affecting portrait of a friendship.
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