The Kingdom of Sand by Andrew Holleran
The Kingdom of Sand by Andrew Holleran
UK Publication: June 2022
Reviewed by: Book Worm
This ARC was provided by Random House UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
One word review – Nostalgic. Two work review – Pure Nostalgia
Synopsis from Goodreads: The Kingdom of Sand is a poignant tale of desire and dread—Andrew Holleran’s first new book in sixteen years. The nameless narrator is a gay man who moved to Florida to look after his aging parents—during the height of the AIDS epidemic—and has found himself unable to leave after their deaths. With gallows humor, he chronicles the indignities of growing old in a small town.
At the heart of the novel is the story of his friendship with Earl, whom he met cruising at the local boat ramp. For the last twenty years, he has been visiting Earl to watch classic films together and critique the neighbors. Earl is the only person in town with whom he can truly be himself. Now Earl’s health is failing, and our increasingly misanthropic narrator must contend with the fact that once Earl dies, he will be completely alone. He distracts himself with sexual encounters at the video porn store and visits to Walgreens. All the while, he shares reflections on illness and death that are at once funny and heartbreaking.
Holleran’s first novel, Dancer from the Dance, is widely regarded as a classic work of gay literature. The Kingdom of Sand displays all of Holleran’s considerable gifts; it’s an elegy to sex and a stunningly honest exploration of loneliness and the endless need for human connection, especially as we count down our days.
My Thoughts: I am not from Florida nor am I an aging gay man but still this book made me nostalgic for a different place and time.
While the subject matter of the book relates to aging and dying alone this is not the depressing read you might expect instead the characters are treated respectfully they are not perfect, they have done things they regret and yet instead of alienating the reader from them it draws us closer in sympathy for what they are going through.
I loved the portrayal of the friendship between the narrator and Earl a relationship that is based on a shared interest of books, music and films rather than the obvious fact that they are both gay.
I also loved how the narrator views the possessions he inherits as symbolic of the other person still being there with him and while this may sound overly sentimental the way this is shown in the book is anything but.
There are also some truly funny one liners thrown into the mix along with beautiful observations about life.
Some of my favourites quotes:
“Gainesville if the planet to whose gravitational pull people in the small towns around it are all subject. It’s where we know we’ll probably be taken when we die – which is why having to put my mother in a nursing home there and having to take my father into hospital the day he had his stroke, seemed like such a defeat. There’s no way around it; Gainesville gets you in the end.”
“And since this story is about the things we accumulate during a lifetime but cannot bear to part with before we die, I think I would not be exaggerating to say that I felt these objects had already assumed some sort of claim on me.”
“Earl used pesticides with abandon and treated his yard with such brutality I could not see how he could be homosexual”
“Picking blueberries with Earl was, I thought, like our friendship, a perfect combination of solitude and companionship”
“Using a two-lane highway presumes that everyone coming toward you wants to live as much as you do”
“That’s how you know you’ve been in Florida too long – you no longer go to the beach”
Who would like this? I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys funny yet beautiful writing and who wants to see a sympathetic look at old age and loneliness.
For me this has Booker Longlist written all over it.
We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think?