Book review: Treasures on Earth, by Wilson Carter

The GLBTRT has been reviewing books and movies in its newsletter since the early 1990s. Trace the evolution of queer publishing through these historic reviews. This review was originally published in Vol. 3, No 3 & 4 Spring/Summer 1991.

Carter, Wilson. Treasures on Earth. Alyson Publications, 1990. Paper. $8.95. (ISBN 1-55583-172-9) (Reprint of 1981 edition).

Gay photographer Willie Hickler is invited to join an expedition to Peru by an old friend. After arriving in South America, Willie meets, and gradually believes himself to be in love with Ernesto Mena, one of the Peruvian guides. Through occasional letters to his widowed sister-in-law and through Wilson’s use of a flash forward technique where Willie can dissect what had occurred in the past, the reader can follow the development of Willie’s affection for Ernesto and the resulting frustrations inherent in a one-sided relationship. This cross cultural relationship is fascinating to witness, as are the many issues dealt with by the author.

The novel begins in the year of the expedition, 1911, which enables the author to develop a more leisurely pace than most novels set in the present day, allowing for lush descriptions of the countryside, the characters, and the historical background needed to explain the novel’s setting.

Wilson’s use of the flash forward technique, which does show the reader a more mature Willie in an established relationship in 1926, causes several awkward passages, but nothing so severe as to distract from the overall effect of the novel.

Beautifully written, this is an unusual type of coming out story in that Willie already accepts his sexuality. His lesson is that others will accept it and him. That is the reader’s lesson as well.

Recommended for all public libraries with an audience for historical fiction.

Reviewed by T.R. Salvadori
Glassboro Public Library
Glassboro, New Jersey

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