DeSimone, Lewis. “Chemistry”. Lethe Press, 2006.
Love and Mental Illness
If you like emotion and melodrama this is a book for you. “Chemistry” by Lewis DeSimone is a love story that is bittersweet and lovely. Dealing with attraction and repulsion here is a book that you will not want to close the cover of.
Ask yourself this question, “What happens when the person you love wakes up as a completely different person”? Zach and Neal fell in love at first sight; it was a chemical attraction. Yet the catalyst that set off the romance changes as they become better acquainted. Here is a novel that deals with identity and yet by chemical means that identity can be changed. Set in the time of Prozac and AIDS we meet characters that will haunt us after the covers are closed. The passion of Neal and Zach is torn apart by mental illness; at their first meeting they are inexplicably drawn to one another but as one falls victim to an illness, the other realizes that he must grow and rebuild himself. What hits so hard here is that as we read the book, our own lives come into play and as the characters search for their identity, the reader likewise searches for his. No matter how well you know yourself, “Chemistry” will give you things to think about.
The story of two men desperately trying to find out how to love each other is extremely moving and highly emotional. DeSimone has written in such beautiful language that there were times I felt my heart begin to break as I read the trials of the lovers.
Neal is an intellectual who exerts a great deal of self control. He is the victim of an unhappy past and the idea of a loving relationship is ideal for him. He has met the guy who he thinks is the man of his dreams only to learn that his new lover suffers from a severe mental illness. His involvement into an affair with Zach can bring him to the point of codependence, something that his own controlled personality abhors.
Zach is beautiful, a true free spirit, sexy and sexual. His childhood was unhappy and abusive and his adult life has been an attempt to forget his past. As he descends into clinical depression his life becomes nightmarish for both him and his lover.
When the men meet the chemical attraction is so strong that it is almost explosive. But as time goes by and Zach loses himself in his disease and his problems, it is up to Neal to be the strong one and watch both his lover and his love for him deteriorate. As explained by Neal, “Chemistry is about reactions”…the merging of two elements which come together to create “something new…two elements come together and neither is the same again”. When the two elements are two men who are lovers, the experience can be disastrous on both of them.
What first appears to be a novel of everyday romance soon tears at the reader as he watches the two men interact. Here is sensuousness, and eroticism and brutal honesty. The questions that the book poses about the nature of identity and attraction are very real and very hard issues with which to deal, DeSimone does so with tact, style and grace.
And as he does this, he makes us witness to the inner thoughts and feelings of his characters.
The book is disturbing but positively so. I can honestly Say that the identification I felt with the characters was real and that when I finished reading I was very sad that Neal and Zach were no longer a part of my life. I was wrong in that assumption. I finished the book on Tuesday and today is Thursday and they are still with me. I am prone to think they will be with me for a very long time.