Quick Rating: A+
Blurb: "A Map of the Harbor Islands" is the long-awaited novel from J G Hayes. This book charts the turbulent life courses of two South Boston friends, Danny O'Connor and Petey Harding, from their childhoods through their adult lives. 'Golden Boy' Petey has it all going for him - grains, charisma and his close friendship with Danny. Then, an accident on the baseball field changes everything. Petey wake from a coma a different person, completely different from the boy Danny knew and loved. When Peter confesses that he is gay, it sends Danny on an odyssey he never dreamed could happen.
Review: This book calls to mind a loving mixture of A Prayer for Owen Meany and the gay classic At Swim, Two Boys. It's a work of real literary merit with its beautiful, luscious prose that meanders slowly through one of the most heartrending tales of friendship and love I have ever read. Danny and Petey's friendship develops through the book in hand-picked events from grade school to their early thirties. Their love story is slowly strengthened through the discovery of Petey's "otherness" and seemingly forever unrequited love of Danny. As Danny struggles to come to terms with Petey's sexuality, Danny begins to question his own. From there the book's all close misses at mutual love and happiness. Only at the end of the book, when the narration finally reaches a present-time setting, do the two arrive at the same place.
[Spoiler: Unfortunately the book never explicitly states that Petey and Danny ride off into the sunset together, but the book leaves the reader with such abiding hope that you could paint their lives after the book ends as vividly as if the story continued.]