Book Review: First Born Sons
Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
A welcome voice in a turbulent time
First Born Sons follows the lives of a handful of standout characters as they navigate their worlds—which are soon to be rocked by the year 2020.
While one man is struggling to suppress his lust for a young man that is not his husband, another is falling in love with a blind DJ. Another person is working through the process of admitting to their husband that they are transgender, while their sister is fighting for custody of her two sons from her far-right ex-husband.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this book, as a pending pandemic unknowingly looms above all of their heads. Adding a worldwide shutdown to already tumultuous times is a recipe that author Vincent Meis is able to make work really well.
Touching on subjects such as race, being trans, politics, pandemics, adoption, and more, this story is jam-packed with contemporary issues. And yet it never feels like too much. Meis gracefully weaves in and out of the narratives, writing with sensitivity and honesty about each subject.
Meis brings humanity to the forefront of this book: characters who are uniquely flawed and deeply recognizable.
One of my favorite stories to follow in First Born Sons is that of Ruben, Augie, and their firstborn son Colton. Conceived with the help of a former Black friend who never wanted to be in the picture, their son Colton is now struggling being the only Black person in a family that is unable to relate to his struggles.
As his biological mother shows little interest in meeting her son, the two fathers plan an international vacation to help take Colton’s mind off of her. The trip, taken just a couple of months before pandemic shutdowns happen, ends up creating a whole new set of obstacles as they make friends with a fellow traveling family.
The daughter of the new family turns into Colton’s girlfriend, and the college-aged son sparks a lust in Augie that his husband Ruben can’t help but feel betrayed by. I love the dilemmas the characters deal with in this story. Augie can’t help but to pine for a new man while his husband watches. They tack that on to raising a Black son, keeping him from a mother who wants nothing to do with him, and trying to protect him from a world that doesn’t give him a fair chance. It’s a raw story that expertly demonstrates the complexities and depths of human emotion.
This isn’t the only forbidden love story that takes place in First Born Sons either. Augie’s sister AJ is in a complicated romance with an illegal immigrant who was once her abductor on vacation.
AJ also is dealing with an impending custody case against her ex-husband, who is the newest member of the political Proud Boys group. When one of her two sons becomes heavily influenced by his father’s extremist views, AJ is forced to fight not only for full-custody but for her son’s future. She juggles her complicated love life and the importance of fighting for her biggest loves: her children.
America is dealing with an upcoming election and the death of George Floyd at the time; a time, like many, where it’s imperative to stand up for what you believe is right. Meis approaches this subject expertly and in a way that will resonate with many Americans.
These are just two of the narratives that I’m talking about here. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single chapter of this book—and each narrative within it. It is impressive to say the least for an author to tackle such difficult subjects in such a complete and compelling way.
He captures the essence of each family’s struggles, the seriousnesses of it all as well as the love or hate behind each action. He also manages to nail the time period, an ever-important task for such a monumental time in our shared lives. It’s a relief that he handles it so well.
Genre: Literary & General Fiction / Contemporary / LGBTQ+
Print Length: 391 pages
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