Spend a few minutes with me. I’ve got something amazing to tell you about.In the hour or two I spent reading this book I must have caught myself twenty times with my brows drawn up in astonishment, with my mouth hanging open, and this watery, pathetic little noise in my throat that was something between a delighted ‘Ohh!’ and an affectionate ‘Aww!’And then, because it’s very short, it was over. And I couldn’t think of anything else for a while.Over and over, I returned to our narrator, Alan Fletcher. Why should I be so enthralled? Why am I still smiling? What the fuck are 'horses doovers?'H'ors d'oeuvres. His mom calls H'ors d'oeuvres 'horses doovers.'Heh.He’s a lot of things, our Alan. Before I started reading the book, I went through a few threads of discussion dealing with the discomfort some people felt reading about a relationship between people at wildly divergent extremes of intelligence. Some even went so far as to view Alan as autistic, though everyone agreed he was, at the least, a very, very simple man, mostly because he could never keep up with the conversation of anyone around him.Some even thought he was flat-out retarded. But he’s not.He’s blind to needless abstraction, not stupid. He’s pragmatic, not coarse.I ask you—who among us never needs a moment, once in a while, to work out what other people are going on about? To parse what is real beneath the layers of theatrical pretense? To see what’s hidden beneath the clattering strata of armor all of us wear every day, which we gild with our self-deception—in futility, of course, because our armor is encrusted with passive cruelties like politically expedient barnacles, razor-sharp with cynicism—but we never really notice any of it, because it's absolutely routine to us all?Who among us dares to walk the Earth without girding our tender hearts thusly?So he’s simple. No two ways about it. But he’s a lot of other things besides. He’s physically huge—the image of him stuffing himself into a Volkswagen Golf is fucking hilarious—and also scary-looking. His vicious-looking but sweetly juvenile tattoos will tell you more about his nature than someone else might reveal by cowering under designer labels or hipster street-cred. He’s very gentle, and even-tempered, and possessed of a profound honesty—a comprehensive inability to dissemble—that takes your breath away.But above all, he is good. Perfectly good. And he needs to be—for this is fiction, after all; this is parable, and it is in stories just like this one that we build our allegory from the purest distillation of our most vital—and dangerous—ideas.Yes. I’m comparing a gay romance novel to George Orwell's 1984. I really, really am.He is the embodiment of an idea. Of what it is to be Good.Heed the spoilery evidence below:When he is thirteen and his father (never all that consistent a presence to begin with) stops coming round altogether, he assumes his dad has died, not that he doesn't love him anymore. And at his wedding, when someone asks him if he got the spiderweb tattoo on his neck to be like his dad—yonder palsied old man, somehow still sweetly good-natured as he stands there trembling with the Parkinson's disease that robbed him of his strength and his son—he says, simply, "yes."After the foolishness with that poxy art student with the nice ass, Larry finds him asleep on the couch. He assumes since Alan chose the couch instead of coming to bed, Al must no longer want him. But he's too much of a fuckwit to consult Alan to his face. So instead of asking, he creeps away to feed on the bitter fruits of his own sophistication, while Alan goes on about his routine content that he successfully avoided disturbing his lover's sleep with his restlessness. It took six days of Larry's icy sabbatical from reason and maturity for Al to realize something was seriously wrong, and while some of you will say to yourselves, "Blimey, that Alan's a thick one, innit," others of you will immediately notice that in those very same six days his poofty Cambridge professor didn't think to open his fucking mouth to ask for Al's thoughts once.Not once.When it all comes out how immature and hasty Larry'd been, Alan doesn't even waste a moment crowing in vindication or extracting his pound of flesh in victory. No, he's too happy to have his Larry back. Too relieved his world had returned to its proper axis.Larry’d all but moved back in with his parents, the twat. Because he’s so smart, you see. So clever. He'd already figured everything out.Who looks like the thick one, now?Skim through your friends' reviews of this book. Notice the words people use to describe it and the character of Alan Fletcher. Notice how many times people say he's "endearing," or the story is "heartwarming." Everyone from my most jaded and grumpy Yoda-analogues to the sweetest, most hysterical fangirls I know adores Alan. Even if they're blind to the structural elegance of this compact book, or unable to discern the keen sense of language required to tell a story in a vibrant and authentic voice without dropping unexpectedly out of cant more than once or twice, they know that they love him, and they tell you so.In all-caps. With, like, gifs of hearts exploding into glitter, and shit.They go absolutely bananas for him, even if they've never studied writing, and don't know how truly difficult it is to narrate in the first person—in any tense—never mind using the classic literary device of the Unreliable Narrator. What J.L. Merrow has done here is nothing short of marvelous, because she's built her book on that very device and all its limitations, to tell a story that is, somehow, still incredibly rich and nuanced. A story about the difference between what people see with their eyes, and what they feel with their hearts. About people who hear, but do not listen. About what people know, but do not understand. About covers, and the books therein.Everyone loves Alan Fletcher, even if they never notice any of that dorky writer-stuff, because he's a pure example of what we aspire to, and what we cherish. We are genetically predisposed to care for him, to go all pie-eyed and gooey-smiled, to squee with a sudden rush of affection for him. He's an archetype of what we admire, and desire. He is the damsel, and the hero. The wise old sage… and the innocent babe.He's also got a big dick. And who doesn't love a big dick, ya?Drop everything. Read this. Read it today. If you only get the merest slice of what this nearly flawless little book has to offer (and lets be clear on this: I'm talking about what is integral to your very humanity), it will still be one slice more than you got yesterday—and more than what you'll get tomorrow.