Let’s Get Back To The Party by Zak Salih

At one of many the first same sex marriages to follow 2015’s Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, childhood friends Oscar and Sebastian run into each other since an ill-fated evening on a college campus a decade earlier. When Let’s Get Back to the Party starts off, we find the two friends (who were once inseparable) at the same wedding, but with totally different life goals.

Sebastian is envious of the grooms. He wants is to settle down. His latest relationship has just ended and when we meet him, he’s still stinging from the breakup, extremely lonely and living in his father’s old house in the sleepy suburbs of D.C. While his love life is lacking, he is happy with his job as a high school art history teacher. And when he runs into Oscar, he sees a chance to rekindle their friendship now that they are both grown up, openly gay adults.

Oscar, on the other hand, is reluctantly at the wedding and spends the reception on his phone trying to set up a post reception hook up. Oscar is tired of attending weddings, tired of gay bars and drag shows (as he laments) being invaded by bachelorette parties and straight people and gay culture fading as more of his friends settle down and have babies.

He has no interest in reconnecting with Sebastian, he has no space in the fabulous life he’s leading of random hook up after hook ups, boozy bunches and evenings of bar hopping for a “boring” suburbanite like Sebastian.

As they go their separate ways after the wedding, Oscar (having been stood up by his post- reception hook up) meets and befriends an older gentleman at the bar – who turns out to be a prolific queer novelist and gay icon, one who fought at Stonewall and embraced his gay lifestyle long before most were “out”. Oscar becomes fascinated by him, and his ability to not hide who he is or his lifestyle.

Sebastian returns to his quiet suburban life, but he also gets drawn into a relationship but with someone of a different generation– one of his students. As the faculty member charge of his school’s LGBTQ club, he meets Arthur. He envies and is fascinated by Arthur’s ease to be himself, at an age Sebastian had to hide his sexuality. His fascination grows to a harrowing borderline of obsession that builds to a climactic event (and a shocking revelation involving Oscar).

Both men learn about themselves from their respective new friendships, which span three generations of gay men, from AIDS-era to today. Along the way, they find each other and friendship again but not without some major bumps and near-catastrophic lessons along the way.

THE FINAL WORD: I love when a book creates characters so vivid, I feel like I know them. Zak Silah has painted Oscar and Sebastian so well that I found myself getting irritated with them both as if they were my friends irl for some of their actions. I also found myself cheering for them. This is a very powerful and immersive story. Thank you #NetGallery and Algonquin for inviting me to read this book!