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A hidden love connects two young White men from Chicago in Oclon’s Vietnam War–era novel. Their relationship is put to the test by time, distance, and circumstance, as Anthony, an Italian American mechanic, enlists in the Army to serve in Vietnam and Sam leaves for college to work toward his dream of becoming a professor. Sam, who reads as White, edges into campus activism at the urging of a friend, while Anthony experiences the unpredictable, dangerous life of a soldier. With separation defining their romantic relationship, the young men see little of each other; cryptic letters and careful visits result in most of their time being spent hiding their innermost feelings from other people—and sometimes each other. After Anthony’s return, they struggle to communicate across the distance of postwar trauma. The historical elements, while accurate, don’t always convey the urgency of being embroiled in this turbulent era as closeted gay men, instead creating a backdrop for complex social themes without strong emotional resonance. Though the novel relies heavily on the inner lives of these young men, the details they share don’t always advance the plot. As a result, scenes sometimes feel observational rather than organically driven by the characters’ identities. Nevertheless, this may appeal as a less intense read for fans of historical fiction.

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