Simon’s Mansion, William Poe’s latest entry to his LGBT literary fiction series, continues the story of protagonist Simon Powell as he returns home to rural Arkansas and struggles to reckon his past with his present. Along the way we are treated to a gripping tale of love, loss, and the search for redemption.
From page one, Poe’s vivid, judiciously-paced prose works wonders as the author gracefully infuses a tried and true prodigal son/coming of age narrative with shades of intolerance, bigotry, and addiction. The novel begins by re-examining Simon’s various relationships (primarily that of his family as well as his lover, Thad) and the emotional baggage he can’t seem to shake, slowly laying the groundwork for a surprisingly thrilling third-act that provides an incredibly satisfying conclusion (avoid spoilers if you can...it’s very good).
Readers will undoubtedly benefit from having read the previous installments to this series (Simon Says, Simple Simon), but visiting/revisiting Poe’s earlier takes on Simon’s ongoing journey is by no means a prerequisite for reading and enjoying this novel. Simon’s Mansion is a fully realized story in and of itself, one where Poe’s gripping narrative transcends the experiences it so gracefully explores...and it just might be the author's best work yet.
As a young boy, Simon fantasized that he came from the faraway planet Zenon. That was because he had strange desires which were different from those of his friends. Even at ten, he was attracted to boys. At eighteen, he decided to abandon his Christian faith and his small-town life and join the Moonies, thinking that their Unification Church will cure him of his “queerness.” However, even after marrying the bride Reverend Moon chose for him, Simon felt the same. Opting to accept his sexual identity, he left Moon’s church and moved to Hollywood, flourishing in a career in film distribution. That’s where he met Thad who became the love of his life. They had a tumultuous relationship, though, for both were addicted to cocaine.
Semi Finalist Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10 Originality: 10 out of 10 Prose: 10 out of 10 Character/Execution: 10 out of 10 Overall: 10.00 out of 10 Assessment: Plot: Though Poe offers a thoroughly compelling and propulsive plot, the author displays a somewhat impatient tendency to skim-over potentially rich scenes in favor of more slow-going descriptions and allusions. The novel's unexpected developments and narrative breadth, however, allow this work to resonate. Prose: While at times Poe's abstractions can unnecessarily obfuscate the circumstances, the author delivers a finely tuned narrative with literary prose that is smooth, rich, and rhythmic in cadence. Originality: What sets this book apart is its raw originality. Simon’s Mansion sensitively and realistically captures the struggles of a young man seeking truth and acceptance following a period of intense struggle. That the author draws from personal experience to craft this story, provides a meaningful level of …