Reclamation, by Vee Hoffman, picks up almost immediately where her first novel, Acclamation, left off. In case you didn’t read my review of Acclamation, let me summarize by saying that I have rarely loved so many aspects of a story so much. Acclamation was detailed, intense, erotic, moving and realistic. Reclamation is all of those things, and more. I wouldn’t recommend reading the sequel without reading its predecessor first, but that’s okay, because trust me, you’re going to appreciate starting at the beginning with this one.
Acclamation was in some ways a very tentative novel, fixated on the taboos and challenges that are inherent in a relationship between Michael Cassidy, a teacher at a Catholic school who is in his late twenties and an atheist, and Dominic Butler, one of his students, a teenager and devoutly religious. Reclamation carries some of that tenuousness over, but there are also a series of revelations that make their romance, if not their lives, easier. Not that their romance is easy yet; the mating dance, as Michael puts it, is exhausting, and that lengthy, time-consuming courtship is on full display. What makes the wait for all of us more palatable is how much more we learn about the main characters, and particularly Michael.
Michael is given the chance to express more of his own foibles in this book, to be more than a love interest and partner in exploration. He’s the narrator for both books, but with Reclamation we get a real sense of both the good and bad of his character. He gets angry, he feels betrayed at times, and he expresses himself with imperfect control and immaturity. Thank god. He’s not even thirty yet, he shouldn’t have to be a paragon of control and maturity all of the time. Michael gets to have his bad days, just like Dominic has his own. The important thing, the thing that makes this pair worth reading about beyond the obvious lyricism of the writing, is how determined they are to be there for each other. Even when the misunderstanding is intense, there’s never a sense of hopelessness. We’re swept up in Michael’s enduring, sometimes astonishing love. Once we learn more about Scott (via his mother Makoto, who is an amazing character) we get a better sense of that love, of how Michael loves, of what he gets from being in love with Dominic. It’s explanation and satiation all wrapped up in absolutely delicious description. Speaking of that…the sex. The intimacy. It will give you shivers.
Feel free to expect a lot from this series and this author. She’s not afraid to tackle difficult subjects, and the introspections on topics ranging from literary interpretation to prejudicial violence to the myriad definitions of virginity were thought-provoking without being proselytizing. The stage is set for future conflicts, the road forward is murky but hopeful, and I personally cannot wait to read more. Ms. Hoffman, with all due respect: step on it.
[Reviewed by Cari]