Originally published February 4, 2019
I’m not sure how much more my heart can take.
Between “A Little Life” and “Less” and “The Great Believers” and even “The Immortalists,”— phenomenal love and friendship stories — you’d think I’d steer myself away from another book sure to make me cry. But these were all so damn good, I couldn’t help myself when a friend suggested that I try “The Heart’s Invisible Furies.”
“If you loved ‘The Great Believers,’ you’ll love this,” she said.
It took me nearly a month to reach the middle of this nearly 600-page paperback — if for no other reason than I’ve just been cramped for time. But I sped through the second half of the book in a weekend, and my heart is full and sad and happy all at once.
Boyne’s story of Cyril Avery (though he’d be sure to tell you he’s not a real Avery), a gay man born in 1940s Ireland, spans nearly eight decades and takes our main character to Amsterdam, New York City and back home to Dublin, all this an effort to find a space and a family where he can be himself without fear of retribution.
It’s interesting in that all the books mentioned above have a character and/or focus on gay culture. And I was tempted to use that as a descriptor. But the more I thought about these stories, it’s not that the profound emotional response evoked has anything to do with the fact the charcacters are gay. No. Instead, it’s because these exquisite characters are human.
Cyril just wants to be loved. He’s flawed for sure, and his one-time wife Alice very aptly points this out later in the book. But those flaws inhabit him only because he’s never felt good in his own skin. With distant parents and an unforgiving culture, Cyril’s left to the underbelly of Dublin to mix and mingle however briefly with potential paramours. Julian, Cyril’s best friend and first real object of desire, isn’t faced with the cultural struggle Cyril is, nonetheless, he is also a ship without a port and searches his entire lifetime for that anchor, finding it in the least likely of places, in his nephew. Ignac, a Slovenian rent boy, finds a real family in Cyril and Bastiaan when his own abuses him in an unspeakable fashion.
And even those that refuse with all their might the ties borne from friendship and family somehow come to terms with what is the mot basic of human needs — to know we are not alone. Cyril’s father, for example. Julian’s sister, Alice. Her son, Liam.
This is a great book if you’re a bawler. Cyril’s adventures are emotionally exhausting but the payoff is amazing. It’s not a “finish in one weekend” kind of read, but so worth the effort. Don’t miss it.