Habits of the Closet

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by Matthew Griffin
Bloomsbury. 257 pages, $26.

 

THIS DEBUT NOVEL presents the pleasures and pains that go with any long-term relationship, as well as the special challenges that come with one that has to be kept secret due to social prejudice. Frank Clifton and Wendell Wilson meet and fall in love in North Carolina, soon after Frank returns from World War II. Given the prevailing attitudes of the time, they’re forced to go to great lengths to hide their relationship to preserve their safety. They buy a small house far from town, hidden from the road by trees, and every year they plant more. In their sixty years of living together, they only leave the house together once. Frank’s sister tracks him down, and he leaves her on the front porch, asking her to never return. They stay away from the politics and social life of their town and workplaces—a steel mill for Frank, a taxidermy shop for Wendell.

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