Brandon Shire has done it again with another moving tale of humanity, one that doesn't ignore the warts and the scars that come from a lifetime of difficult choices and even more difficult experiences. Listening To Dust is not a happily-ever-after romance, but it is a moving tale about the power (and the obligations) of love.
This is really the story of three young men, all of whom have lost something, and who are tied to one another because of it. Stephen lost his parents almost immediately after being caught in a compromising position with another boy. Already the subject of taunts and threats, it's no wonder he hates himself for what's happened. Dustin is a rape victim, abused by his alcoholic father, who inadvertently destroyed his brother's life in an attempt to save him from the same fate. Already self-loathing, it's no surprise he heaps an impossible load of guilt upon that hatred. Robbie is that damaged brother, the boy who brings them together . . . and who unknowingly drives them apart.
I'll be brutally honest. This was a book that made me angry, and which made me sad. I cried over some parts of it, and had to restrain myself from throwing my e-reader across the room over others. That's not a criticism of Brandon's writing, rather it's a mark of just how deeply he got under my skin. This is a man who knows how to build a character in your mind, and how to exploit a situation for the maximum possible emotional and intellectual impact.
Brandon doesn't sugar coat his story, and doesn't shy away from the ugliness of words. Politically incorrect as they are, he understands the power that words like "dummy" have on a person, and he forces us to experience that power. He may not give his characters the ending we'd like to see, but it's clear he cares for them, and will fight for their acceptance. They're not perfect by any means, but he never allows their flaws to justify their treatment by society.
A tough read, but a beautiful one, this is another example of Brandon's literary brilliance. I always feel empty and exhausted after reading one of his books, finding myself suddenly free of the walls I didn't even realize he'd built around me. Don't let me scare you away from giving him a read, though - he may challenge you and leave you broken-hearted, but he'll also win you over with the power of his storytelling.
[Reviewed by Sally]