When cancer takes away his young son Jason, it all but destroys Raphael, sending him into a deep depression. He drives away his partner, Warren, who helped raise Jason and ultimately he loses his home and business. He ends up living on the streets, in a sort of limbo of grief, where he splits his time between a homeless shelter and his son’s grave.
After nearly a year of this non-existence, Raphael meets Brian, a young boy around Jason’s age who was thrown out of his home when he came out as gay. Brian has lived on the streets longer than Raphael, and learned how to make money by selling his body. The boy sparks Raphael’s paternal interest, and when he bumps into Warren at Jason’s grave, it seems that he might well be turning the corner of his depression.
But Raphael can’t just walk back into his old life, even if his company needs him back. Things with Warren can never be the same, and even with the help of a sympathetic social worker named Michael, who is going to trust him enough to let him take care of Brian?
In many ways, “The Opera House” weaves together stories of several lives which are probably quite common in the real world, but rather rare in gay fiction. While a few people are horrified at the idea, there are in fact an increasing number of gay men and lesbians raising children (and apparently doing it quite well). There are also gay homeless people and, perhaps most sadly of all, a shocking percentage of young people living on the streets are gay, having been thrown out of their homes by their parents.
However, you shouldn’t get the idea that this is an ‘issues’ book. While it does cover some serious subjects and does, on rare occasions, get just a tiny bit preachy, this is still a story about life, love, and happiness. Although the opening chapters reveal a quite depressing picture of Raphael and his grief, it does, as the saying goes, get better. I don’t think it’s spoiling things too much to say that there is a happy ending, although it might not be the one you may expect while reading, and the road there is hardly a direct route. The story definitely has its ups and downs. It might even come off as a bit of a soap opera, but not in a sappy or maudlin way. The obstacles that get tossed in Raphael’s path are quite realistic — although the guardian angel who seems to come to his rescue all too often does get a little too good to believe by the end.
“The Opera House” is definitely worth a read for its unusual topics, which are approached realistically and with compassion. The prose is quite readable and the characters, for the most part, fully fleshed. Like many self-published books (including mine), the story could have benefited from better proofing and tighter editing, but the overall quality is still very high.