Author ~ A J Rose
Publisher ~ The Grim Writer Press
Published ~ 10th March 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
In the beginning, there was wreckage. Dane Perry’s mother was dead, and the father who always said he’d amount to nothing blamed him. Dane swore he’d become something. He would be someone.
In the middle, there was escape. Rebuilding his life from the ashes of his mother’s memory, Dane found success as a respected surgeon, and love in the form of Craig Dahl, a talented artist who became his everything. But there was also darkness, lies, and a crumbling foundation just waiting for the ground to shift.
In the end, there was a spectacular fall, illusions shattered, and for Dane, nothing more to lose. He was broken, damaged, and left with fierce demons. But from the bottom, the only way left is up. Dane renewed friendships and salvaged his career. The only thing he cannot replace is Craig. But Dane has a plan. Brick by brick, his foundation is rebuilt, and all he needs is for Craig to listen one last time.
In the beginning again, there’s hope and tatters of love. Can Dane repair the damage with Craig? Can he rescue the only thing he amounted to that ever truly mattered?
Content Warning: This book contains vivid descriptions of symptoms of PTSD and events that can cause anxiety. Reader discretion advised.
I must confess to having seriously mixed feelings about The Anatomy of Perception. On the one hand, A J Rose sure can write. The prose is confident, dialogue believable and the editing professional and polished.
The characters are vivid. Dane is the main character, a lost soul who somehow managed to graduate college, medical school, internship and was doing his surgical residency - until he had to quit.
The love of his life is Craig, an amazingly talented artist who meets Dane as he walks down a street in New York where Craig is doing on-the-fly chalk portraits for a few bucks a pop. Captivated by Dane’s amazing silver eyes, he starts rendering him all over New York, on the side of buildings, in huge scale on the city sidewalks, indeed, any surface he can find to use as a public canvas. It’s a whole new definition of stalking, drawing these remarkable portraits of a stranger he’s falling for - from memory.
They have their first real conversation when Dane accosts him, begging him to stop drawing him. He doesn’t want to be seen. He doesn’t want to be known. He is, in fact, terrified. Raised in West Virginia by a drunk single parent (his father), he fled with his best girl friend (Holly) as soon as he reached 18. The pair have been in hiding ever since. His violent father continued stalking him, intent on doing violence to his own son. Once, he gave him a concussion. Another time, he showed up drunk and unconscious in Dane’s college dorm room and security had to remove him from the premises. Dane even had an Order of Protection, which barely even slowed down the relentless pursuit by his hateful, out-of-control father.
Dane and Holly were living a New York life, undercover. His portrait, exquisitely drawn in very public locations, scared the hell out of him, as though they were engraved invitations to his crazy father to find him and destroy his life.
So far, so good. The father turns out to be a multiple murderer, once in a drunk-driving accident, the other when he bashed someone close to Dane over the head with a liquor bottle, killing him. Dane lives in fear of him, and it’s an entirely rational and well-earned fear. But it is too much to live with, day in and day out. To protect Craig, he never told him the truth about his life. The only one who knows is Holly, who has remained his best friend and his only comfort through these long, difficult years.
An unrelated mugging brings his years of torture and fear to the surface with wrenching intensity and pain. Dane decompensates, suffering a serious psychotic break that costs him both his career and the man he loves. He pushes away anyone close to him because he feels unworthy of their attention and affection.
This is the point at which my mixed feelings really started to take root, and they’re mixed for a variety of reasons.
First, the book is just too long. There’s quite a bit of repetition, the sex scenes are exceedingly graphic and drawn out, and by the time I was two thirds of the way through The Anatomy Of Perception, I was exhausted and just wanted it to end, already.
Second, I was lost throughout most of the book. The author chose a disconcerting architecture for the book that made it significantly less readable than it should have been.
There are approximately six thousand Kindle locations in The Anatomy of Perception. Approximately five thousand of those were flashbacks. Some people like flashbacks, other people are exceedingly annoyed by them. I don’t mind a flashback as a big reveal at the climax of a book, but I’m not at all comfortable bouncing back and forth along a timeline stretching from 2002 to today. Yes, the chapters each have a year as its title. But unless you know which events occurred in what order, that information is not very helpful. In fact, it’s annoying. Each event, each important moment is foreshadowed with a superficial discussion in the “present”. Several chapters later, the author goes into almost excruciating detail about that same event, which might have been a good idea, except that there’s no dramatic tension left – we already know how things turn out. Essentially, most of the book was written as a wordy recapitulation and explication of events already encountered by the reader. I often had the disturbing sensation that I was watching a Chinese Ping-Pong match.
My final issue is probably truly my issue, not so much the author’s. I understand that this book is a character study of the descent into mental illness and the recovery from PTSD. And the author does, thankfully, eventually provide a happily-ever-after epilogue. But trust me, getting there was not fun.
The book is an immersive experience in mental agony. It covers Child Abuse, Alcoholism, Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, Autism, a female doctor with a sexual fetish for jumping into bed with two gay men plus a penchant for blackmail, murder, Paranoia, a homeless family of three underage boys, Stage 3 Cancer, internalized homophobia, self-loathing… I know I must be forgetting something. At times it seemed like every bad thing that ever happened to anyone, ever, happened in this book.
Some people really appreciate reading about descents into the hell of a damaged psyche. Me, not so much. I found that I was getting really depressed reading this book and often needed to put it down and come up for air. That’s just my personal preference, so don’t let my aversion dissuade you.
The Anatomy of Perception is, without a doubt, an extremely well-written book with occasional flashes of beauty in both the characters and the prose. I would love to read something by A J Rose that isn’t quite well… so very, very dark.