Title ~ In the Absence of Light
Author ~ Adrienne Wilder
Published ~ 25th March 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
For years Grant Kessler has smuggled goods from one end of the world to the next. When business turns in a direction Grant isn’t willing to follow he decides to retire and by all appearances he settles down in a nowhere town called Durstrand. But his real plan is to wait a few years and let the FBI lose interest, then move on to the distant coastal life he’s always dreamed of.
Severely autistic, Morgan cannot look people in the eye, tell left from right, and has uncontrolled tics. Yet he’s beaten every obstacle life has thrown his way. And when Grant Kessler moves into town Morgan isn’t a bit shy in letting the man know how much he wants him.
While the attraction is mutual, Grant pushes Morgan away. Like the rest of the world he can’t see past Morgan’s odd behaviors
Then Morgan shows Grant how light lets you see but it also leaves you blind. And once Grant opens his eyes, he loses his heart to the beautiful enigma of a man who changes the course of his life.
At the beginning of the week we brought you Lisa’s insightful, touching thoughts on this amazing story. Today we’d like to end the week with another thoughtful, moving review of Adrienne Wilder’s wonderful book, from our Alan. Both reviewers found themselves resonating with In the Absence of Light on a personal level; albeit for different reasons, but they both absolutely loved it and we’re honoured to share their 5 star emotional contemplations with you.
Without any doubt, Adrienne Wilder is one of the finest authors writing today. Count me a fan.
No matter what her subject matter, she writes with a depth and subtlety that is literary, highly personal and powerfully evocative. She moves me in ways that few other authors do, and leaves me richer for having read her work. This book is a perfect example, even though its theme is difficult, daunting and a bit uncomfortable: autism. This is not a medical drama, a "persecution of the handicapped" book, nor a "disability of the week" novel. It is, in fact, a celebration of the remarkable talents and humanity that often lurk beneath the surface of mental challenges. And it poses some interesting and important questions.
First among these is why we have such a marked propensity to dismiss people whose behaviors and thought processes are different from what we consider "normal" or appropriate - in other words, our own. We have an unfortunate tendency to treat those with all kinds of disabilities as, somehow, less than human. Their tics, or missing limbs, or twisted grimaces often make us forget that there is a thinking, feeling human being inhabiting those twisted, sometimes out-of-control bodies. I know this for a fact, so Ms. Wilder's premise hit me right between the eyes the moment I realized where she was going with "In The Absence of Light". My beloved mother, one of the smartest, most aware human beings it's ever been my pleasure to know (even if she were not my mother), suffered a devastating stroke some years back. I stood in her hospital room a day after her stroke while my family and my mother's supposedly brilliant neurosurgeon discussed her future prospects right in front of her, as though she weren't there. I was infuriated, and I shouted (quite embarrassingly) at them to stop! I reminded them, in no uncertain terms: "You know, Lottie is in there. She hasn't lost her hearing or her mind, and yet you exclude her as if she were a piece of furniture or the family dog. How dare you?" A couple of years later, after I'd nursed her back from the effects of her stroke and she returned to independent living, she took me aside and thanked me. She told me how much she loved me, but never so much as when I stood up for her in that hospital room. She described how she felt so incredibly helpless, with all those people talking about her as though she were already dead, and that she was so happy and proud that I'd made them stop and insisted that she be the one to make the decisions about her own health and future. It's what gave her hope to go on. And she did, indeed.
Lottie is no longer with us, but I have worked with other handicapped and "mentally challenged" people, over the years, and came to the depressing realization that most people treat people unlike themselves as though they were less than human, as though their hopes and souls were somehow less than their own. On another level, it's exactly what we see today in the homophobes who are out to deny and destroy same-sex families. Gay people are different, and therefore don't deserve the respect, admiration and human rights we reserve for "people like us". It's all cut from the same cloth. Perhaps I'm projecting, but I strongly doubt that it's an unintended metaphor - Ms. Wilder is just too accomplished and perceptive an author to have stumbled blindly into the parallels.
Her treatment of the autistic main character is so deep and empathetic that I wouldn't be surprised if Ms. Wilder has had a similar experience with someone close to her. Not only does she really "get" this, she expresses it with humor, beauty and love. This is not the first time she's broached a similar subject. It's a major plot point in her stunning trilogy "My Brother's Keeper" and even her more recent "Complementary Colors". Her "special" people all have remarkable talents, deep souls, artistic abilities, and insights beyond what "normal" people possess. In "In The Absence of Light", Morgan, who is a high-functioning autistic, hears the light, the same way that most of the rest of us hear music. It speaks to him. And, because light travels at well... the speed of light, it sometimes reveals events that have not yet happened, and words and feelings not yet expressed by those he cares about.
Don't worry. This is not a paranormal thriller, just a novel about about a remarkably talented, beautiful and loving young man who is seen by the world as "less", but who is, in fact, much much more. Grant is the young man who brings the light out of Morgan and cherishes it. He's a few years older than Morgan and, at first, feels guilty as hell for his immediate sexual attraction to this beautiful, yet different, young man. He's terrified that he's taking advantage of someone who is too innocent, vulnerable and damaged to consent. Morgan, with his wonderful, sarcastic humor, and his voracious appetite for sex, disabuses Grant of that notion in no time flat.
Grant has come to this one-horse-town to escape Chicago, where he fears his welcome has worn thin - and, apparently, it has. He's made tons of money as a "shipping agent" who doesn't ask questions about the provenance of the goods, art, antiques and exotic cars he arranges to have shipped around the world for his wealthy clients. He's not a criminal (officially), but the FBI is desperate to get their hands on his client records so that they can use him to get at his clients. In order to accomplish that, they set him up with an undercover agent, who spends three years in Grant's life and bed, until Grant discovers that his "beloved" is, in fact, just an FBI agent out to entrap him. His heart broken, his ability to trust destroyed, he "retires" at the age of 32 and moves to the small rural town where Morgan lives. Fortunately, the FBI has been unable to pin anything on him, as his records and taxes are absolutely pristine. There's not even enough evidence to subpoena his records or search his properties. He knows he has to lay low for a couple of years before he can move on to a tropical island, where he can live a life of peace, safety and luxury because of the fat offshore bank accounts in which he has hidden most of his profits from his relatively long and successful career.
Want to make God laugh? Make a plan. The monkey wrench in this particular plan is the wonderful Morgan, who steals Grant's heart and soul within just a few days, perhaps even upon first sight. One of the most beautiful recurring themes of this beautiful book is how much Grant learns about himself, the world and its possibilities from Morgan, despite what others see as his "handicap". This is a true two-way street, in which each man brings to the table exactly what the other needs. It was almost fated.
It's not all as romantic as I make it sound. Ms. Wilder is a genius at maintaining a believable balance. The stunning love between these two men, a love neither expected, is just part of a much larger plot involving corrupt FBI agents, big-time killers, and a relative of Morgan's who fears that he is out to steal his business and loot his bank accounts. There is even a hellacious shoot-out in a church in Chicago, not to mention some of the hottest sex scenes I've read in years.
But dominating everything else is the brilliant writing of author, Adrienne Wilder. She is just so gifted, so fluent in the written word, that every location jumps vividly to mind, dialogue is so subtly handled as to not only be absolutely believable, but uses "voices" so unique that you can recognize who's speaking just from the cadence of each character's words.
Beautiful, evocative, moving, brilliant. I don't have enough superlatives to express what a wonderful experience it is to read an Adrienne Wilder novel, and "In The Absence of Light" is certainly no exception. If you love great writing, empathetic characters, plots that grab your mind and heart from the very first page, you owe it to yourself to get this book and read it. You won't be disappointed.
Connect with Adrienne Wilder
Georgia born and bred, I am an artist, a writer, and a general pain in the ass.
I spend most of my days working on my next book or designing cover art for other writers. For stress relief I do olympic lifting and occasionally run (but hate it). I have been in love with writing since I was very young but it wasn't until recently that I decided to pursue it as a profession.
I have experimented in several genres and found that since I identify as male, male romance has been the most comfortable for me to write. I don't discriminate in my books. All characters are fair game. I do however, prefer a happy ending at some level.
I don't write the standard romance book. Some might even argue that what I write isn't romance at all. Personally I think of them as love stories, where even in a fantastical world, there are realistic outcomes to the obstacles the characters face.
Many of my books have dark turns and twists where the characters fight for the light at the end of the tunnel. I write action, fist fights, gun fights, down right dirty evil people who have to be stopped, things catch fire, blow up, and fall in. My characters come in a unique range. They are not all good guys, but the majority of them have very good hearts. Many of them have been through hell in their lives, and many of them have a laundry list of faults. But hopefully they manage to surprise you with their tenacity and loyalty.
If all goes well, there will be a myriad of different kinds of books available this year. If I am really lucky, you will enjoy them.