Boyer, Dale. Thornton Stories, Tales Out of School. Chicago: OhBoy Books, 2017. 185 p. Paperback. $14.95. ISBN 978-0-9970134-2-9.
In this volume of connected short stories we return to Thornton College and the town of Thornton in the middle-of-nowhere of southern Illinois, surrounded by farms and far from any major town or city. Thornton is based on a real college that the author attended as an undergraduate, Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois. “Blackburn is one of only eight federally recognized work colleges in the United States” (Wikipedia). This means that students work on campus for much of their tuition.
In this volume we return to some of the characters in Boyer’s wonderful first novel The Dandelion Cloud. (Chicago: OhBoy Books, 2016). I reviewed this novel for the GLBT Roundtable and found it enjoyable and exceptional. There are also many new characters, both at the college and in the town and surrounding towns. The characters are both straight and gay and often struggling with their identity. Two of these are now elderly high school teachers in nearby Moline, Illinois who both fall in love with students. The woman does not survive the torment of rejection, but the elderly Latin teacher moves forward with new determination to pursue his true identity. At the end of the volume, the main characters from Dandelion Cloud get together to share their new lives, one straight couple, one gay.
There are so many characters that I hope there will be a second edition in which the author can list all the characters with a few identifying facts. It was sometimes hard to keep track of them.
This volume of stories continues the tradition Boyer established in his first novel of high literary quality writing. The stories are told in both the third and first person with a great skill and compassion. Sex is hinted at, but nothing very explicit..
This is Boyer’s second work. He remains someone to watch for further development. Highly recommended for collections of contemporary gay fiction and for individuals who value literary quality writing. Boyer has a M.A. from the University of Wisconsin Madison and an M.F.A from Vermont College. His education and skill as a writer has served him and we his readers well.
James Doig Anderson
Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science, Rutgers University