Acclamation by Vee Hoffman is a touching, detailed, and at times lyrical novel that describes the slow slide for protagonist Michael Cassidy from a state of stale grief back to the land of the living through the vehicle of his developing love for Dominic Butler, one of his students at the Catholic school where he teaches. There are plenty of things that could be said about that power dynamic, about the religious issues that are raised and about May-December romances, but the story treats those issues more as side notes to the central theme, which is a coming-of-age story for Dominic and a resurrection for Michael.
The story is told from Michael’s point of view, and since Michael is a literature teacher, it makes sense stylistically for the prose to be descriptive and, at times, exhaustively so. This isn’t the book you want to read if you’re looking for a quick fix or something you can skim. The sex scenes are few and tentative, but beautiful as well (the phone sex was absolutely delicious) and the character motivations are never in question, because everything they’re going through, feelings and actions and the reasoning in between, is laid out in fulsome, satisfying detail. We learn about the tragedy that precipitated Michael becoming so closed off from life, we see the challenges for Dominic, both spiritually and in his social life, with accepting that he’s gay. Nothing is ignored, and for that reason you should go into this novel expecting to take your time with the transitions and transformations.
I did have a few little niggles with the book; there’s a piece of conflict in the middle of the story that made me roll my eyes a little with its timing, and at times the sheer length of some of the descriptions made my eyes blur. The ending left me frustrated, although I can see why the author decided to stop there. It’s not an end that’s unexpected or emotionally unsatisfying, exactly, but it did make me go, “Really? But-but-but…” For the most part, though, Vee Hoffman keeps things on an even keel, guiding her readers through the rushing waters of secrets, uncertainties and fresh desires with a deft hand. She writes some of the best descriptions of love, in its many incarnations, that I’ve read, and delivers a fascinating take on a life that’s intriguing for all its simplicity. Acclamation is a slow, sweet romance that asks for your full attention, and the payout if you give it is well worth your time.
[Reviewed by Cari]