A.F. Henley's 'Sonata' utterly captivated me from the very first page…and is definitely one of his very best efforts.
It is one of those books that when begun, makes it almost impossible to set aside to tend to those everyday concerns we all have without feeling a twinge of resentment over being interrupted. Even though I blazed through it in my first reading because I simply had to know what happened next, it is a story I know I shall visit again and again…and for me, that is a rare thing. Simply said, Sonata deserves to be savored for its complex issues and Henley's depth of insight into the human condition.
For me, Ian's tremendous appeal lies in the fact that he is a man of conscience and could be any one of us at a given point in life. I especially love his imperfections…and his honesty in the face of them. According to society's standards Ian has achieved a certain measure of success, but he's beginning to realize just how steep the cost has been. Ian is delightfully real…someone who is questioning the ground upon which he stands, but is still moving in spite of it. He's made mistakes and been taken for granted because of them, but is still capable of incredible loyalty. With his former lover's parting shots still ringing in his ears, Ian finds himself in surroundings which hold no true appeal, still unconsciously searching for that vital connection which gives meaning to it all…and if there was ever someone who would seem to be the least likely answer to Ian's questions, it would be Jordan.
At first, Jordan is very unlikable. It is a testament to Henley's skill in portraying him that he appears as a shallow, callous punk with very few, if any, redeeming qualities.
And so when Ian and Jordan first encounter one another, it only seems to reinforce the self doubt Ian is drowning in. Their initial meeting in a bar's bathroom is wonderfully told in its gritty, no-holds-barred, take-it-or-leave-it realism. In fact, the entire scene left me feeling sympathy for the both of them due to the callousness and futility Henley so excellently portrayed. It left me wondering which of them felt more used by what happened there.
When fate throws Ian and Jordan together again, it would be difficult to imagine which of them is more surprised. With the introduction of Cole, a special needs child who suffers from the dreadful isolation of Asperger's syndrome, we get our first glimpse of Jordan as someone who is more than he first appeared. In his fierce devotion to Cole, Jordan betrays himself as being capable of deep loyalty and devotion and by his very defensive evasiveness, is not as unaffected by Ian as he would have him believe.
From the moment he first appears, little Cole would raise every protective instinct in even the hardest heart…and Ian being who he is, he cannot help but respond. Where that instant response takes all three of them and the layers of deception along the way makes for a heartwrenching, bittersweet and enticingly sensual tale…one that makes it impossible to not become emotionally invested in Sonata's ultimate outcome.
In attempting to write a review without spoiling the plot of Sonata for other readers, there are so many things which by necessity have to be 'glossed over', but that is my own shortcoming. That being said, it is my hope that what little I have managed to say about this well-told tale will inspire you to explore it for yourself- because I certainly cannot recommend it highly enough.
You can find Sonata and more of Henley's marvelous works here: afhenley.wordpress.com/sonata/