Delighted to bring you an extract from Gap Years today by Dave Holwill…..
19 year old Sean hasn’t seen his father since he was twelve. His mother has never really explained why. An argument with her leads to his moving to the other side of the country.
Martin, his father, has his life thrown into turmoil when the son he hasn’t seen in nearly eight years strolls back into his life immediately killing his dog and hospitalising his step-daughter.
The one thing they have in common is the friendship of a girl called Rhiannon.
Over the course of one summer Sean experiences sexual awakenings from all angles, discovers the fleeting nature of friendship and learns to cope with rejection.
Martin, meanwhile, struggles to reconnect with Sean while trying to delicately turn down the increasingly inappropriate advances of a girl he sees as a surrogate daughter and keep a struggling marriage alive.
Gap Years is an exploration of what it means to be a man in the 21st Century seen from two very different perspectives – neatly hidden inside a funny story about bicycles, guitars and unrequited love.
In this extract Martin goes to an open mic night with Rhiannon, a girl he is becoming friendly with at work. His son, Sean, who is developing a crush on Rhiannon, is singing there.
Finally he starts. He’s off, picking out a familiar rhythm. I’ve heard this song on the radio at work, it’s fucking dreadful. I lean over and whisper this to Rhiannon.
‘No! I love this song,’ she explains. ‘He’s singing it for me.’
That explains the choice of material. He’s obviously smitten. He is singing now, it is, if such a thing is possible, even worse than the version you hear on the radio five times a day.
‘Why would you make him do this?’ I ask her, as casually as I can. I’m worried that she might be teasing him. He takes everything so literally, sarcasm can be a bit of a blind spot – at least it was when he was nine.
‘Because he offered to,’ she says, simply, without a trace of malice. ‘And because I love this song, and I really like Sean, I thought getting him a spot down here to sing would be good for him. I don’t think he gets out much.’ She’s right, he doesn’t. I think I would like him to spend more time with her, she might be good for him – and she can report back on how he’s doing. I can use my friendship with Rhiannon to fix my relationship with Sean.
‘Listen.’ She’s going to need some warning if she’s going to spend a lot of time with him. ‘Don’t hurt my boy, he’s a bit of a delicate flower. I don’t know how much he’s told you about me and him. But it’s even more complicated than I told you. I’m glad he’s found a nice girl. I’ve always liked you, so as his dad, and your friend, I am asking you to…’
‘Don’t be a tosser Mart,’ she laughs, interrupting me. ‘Sean likes boys doesn’t he? I can tell.’
‘Well, that would make sense.’ I grin, fairly sure she’s wrong. ‘He wouldn’t tell me if he did. I’m probably a bit of a dinosaur I’m afraid.’
It’s all so different from when I was his age. When I was a kid round here being gay wasn’t even an option, unless you wanted a swift kick in the head and a trip into the river. It’s good that he has options I didn’t. I admit I have trouble with it, but I mean well, I am a product of my upbringing. I grew up in Devon in the 1970s, where diversity was something to do with crop rotation.
‘The first step to not being a dinosaur is admitting you’re a dinosaur.’ She grins. ‘You can change, I can help.’
I don’t know exactly how I might react if he is gay. I like to think I’d be supportive and pleased. But hypothetical is hypothetical, and I’m from a generation where we called each other Nancy for showing emotion over anything other than football. I think she’s wrong, but I won’t tell her.
‘He’s alright isn’t he?’ Rhiannon is entranced by Sean’s singing. I am not sure why, he is squarky, out-of-tune, slightly ahead of his guitar and keeps playing the wrong chord in the chorus. He is not ‘alright’. I have to remember Alison’s warning, be nice. No matter what. I’m not sure she’s right, but defying her could be what tips us from ‘in trouble’ to ‘headed for divorce’.
‘Yeah, I couldn’t be more proud.’ It was true when he was just playing Lynyrd Skynyrd songs with the band, but he really shouldn’t sing. I charge my nerve with ale and hope my poker face holds.
He comes over once he’s finished, wide-eyed and terrified. I give him a hug, tell him ‘Good job son,’ and smile my best, winning, deal-making, everything’s-going-to-be-fine smile. He immediately relaxes. I occasionally forget how good a liar I am.
about the author….
Dave Holwill was born in Guildford in 1977 and quickly decided that he preferred the Westcountry – moving to Devon in 1983 (with some input from his parents).
After an expensive (and possibly wasted) education there, he has worked variously as a postman, a framer, and a print department manager (though if you are the only person in the department then can you really be called a manager?) all whilst continuing to play in every kind of band imaginable on most instruments you can think of.
Gap Years is his third novel – following on the heels of Weekend Rockstars and The Craft Room, and he is currently working on the fourth (a folk horror set in his native mid-Devon) and a sequel to Weekend Rockstars.
Have a look at the other bloggers on this tour and check our their reviews :):
Thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources and to the author for letting me share an extract of the book. Please note, I’m not affiliated with any of the links in this post.
Hope you’re having a great weekend!