Book Reviews

Never Turn Your Back on the Tide by Kergan Edwards-Stout at Circumspect Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Fiction
Reviewed by Bob-O-Link on 11-September-2020

Book Blurb

“If truth be told, and it always should, I was taken in by the view, as so many others, both before and since. For me, it wasn’t the sea which proved my downfall, but a pair of eyes. Eyes, specifically, made to drown in.”

Imagine thinking you had the ideal life. The perfect partner, on whom you relied and trusted.  An infant child, newly adopted. Then one day, you wake up, and the life you’ve been living has suddenly turned upside down. Everything thought true becomes suspect. And you learn, quite quickly, that you can never again trust the person sleeping beside you.


If Kergan Edwards-Stout’s life was a Lifetime movie, surely he would be played by Valerie Bertinelli, and his husband played by some charming hunk. But life is far more subtle than that. And even now, the truth is murkier, and even more disturbing. For Kergan, that email proved to be only the beginning.


Like the wash of the waves, crashing onto the beach, you never know if the tumult will bring glittering riches, highlighted by the sun, or dark, murky residue of questionable origin.


Book Review

My New Rule - Don’t start formulating a critical opinion about a book while I am still at the beginning of reading it. I almost disregarded that until I became aware that ‘Never Turn Your Back on the Tide’ was really a compendium, much like three different books. The first part is much like indulging in unending appetizers (which, given how classy Rainbow Book Reviews strives to be, would then be referred to as literary amuse bouches) - and, all the while, taking but interim tastes of the main course. Then comes part two, in which Mr. Edwards-Stout takes us through a linear autobiography - a running narrative, still studded with occasional short and pointed snippets of thoughts. This part, replete with “famous” named and pseudonymously disguised persons, is perhaps where fiction and memory cross.


Finally, in apparent literary exhaustion, the author concludes by waxing philosophic and bringing us into the present.


What is consequential in determining whether to read this compendium? Will this author’s recollections (reconstructions?) mean something to you, reach into your core? For me the answer is “Yes.”


The book’s opening format is the studding of a linear narrative with short pieces, observations, and epigrams (any of which could be conversationally dropped, without rhyme or reason, at a cocktail party). They aptly stir a sense of nostalgia, ranging from (a) those of us who are addicted to reading those humorous calendars with daily Ha Ha’s, to (b) those who habitually read a daily religious epigram. If either grabs you, as in this book, you may irresistibly keep mining ahead, searching to strike emotional gold.


Now – how do I approach the balance of the book? Can’t dwell on the plot – which scopes the author’s life. Can’t parse the characters - who, other than the author, often seem transcendental at best. You will just have to trust my judgment that this is an easy, educational, and entertaining read. The author is adept at structure and language, knowing well how to mix it all with measured soupçons of sarcasm and irony. I will save the details of his biography for you, and I will also keep the pleasure of revealing too many wonderful tidbits, merely tempting you with a few of the earliest.


Example 1: “… you see, for every lollipop, there is a sucker.”


Example 2: “A detailed description of his mother which easily could be attributed to Tennessee Williams!”


Example 3: “With his sashay, pouty lips, and fluttering eyelashes, it was clear at an early age that Teddy would have a lifelong career in cosmetology.”


Example 4: “You’ve heard it here first, folks: Penises rarely lie.” Then, eventually, after an appropriate story - “As I learned long ago, Pianists rarely lie.”


Mr. Edward-Stout’s life has been experienced during a time that still affects the mature among us. With notes of laughter and discovery, we also share his youthful choice to commit to a lover with AIDS and the pain of the subsequent loss. [*] Can we bear his supreme human honesty, accepting irreparable personal loss while also expressing relief from tending to that end-of-life burden?

[* While reading in ‘Never Turn Your Back on the Tide’ about the author’s five-week European tour with his AIDS-stricken and dying lover, I was reminded of a similar itinerary I’d enjoyed in the 1990s, with my life partner. We were staying a few days in an intimate pensione in Florence, by the Arno River. Alone at breakfast one morning, at another table I recognized the gay author, Paul Monette. While he, too, was traveling with another man, both our companions were still sleeping. I took the special opportunity to introduce myself and we made light conversation for an hour – not because I was drawn to his marvelous talent and noted intellect, but – in all honesty, because he was hot as hell to look at. Subsequently, after reading many of his works, I was overwhelmed by his awareness of the transitory nature of life and its experiences, and as also shown by Mr. Edwards-Stout in this biography, of the need to relish life’s joy while we’re able.]


His subsequent guided tour of his adult life is quite a trip – first, a love affair with a man who might qualify as moderately psychotic (Boo! Hiss!); commitment to a grown-up, loving partner (Hooray!); raising children and reconciling with quirky parents. You’ll be pleased to take this trip with him. But, the price (of course) is some concluding, slightly sappy, “life lessons.”


Appropriate to his time and place, Mr. Edwards-Stout’s book is a fine work for which the reader will be rewarded.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Circumspect Press for the purpose of a review.


Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 376 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 08-September-2020
Price $9.99 ebook, $16.99 paperback
Buy Link