'Big Gay Wedding'

"Big Gay Wedding" by Byron Lane.

Few things are cast in stone.

Which means that you've usually got time to change your mind. Do a little research, listen to other voices, get educated, think about things, and pivot. No one will criticize; you may, in fact, be commended for your new open-mindedness. As in the new book, "Big Gay Wedding" by Byron Lane, you might like the new outlook, too.

Chrissy Durang, "Farmer Mom" and owner of the Polite Society Ranch near New Orleans, checked two things off a list in her notebook. The school bus filled with noisy children arrived for their tour of the ranch, check. Barnett should be arriving later, check.

Thirty-four-year-old Barnett was the light in Chrissy's world, her son, her only child, the near-exact image of his late father. She was excited about his homecoming; surely, Barnett was flying from California to tell her he was ready to take over the ranch now, take care of the animals, take care of her.

Instead, not long after he arrived, Barnett dropped a bombshell about "The Big Thing" that they never discussed: he was engaged. To be married. To another man. And he wanted to do it there in Mader, at Polite Society Ranch.

Chrissy could think of a million things she didn't like about Barnett's intended, Ezra, and they all went into her notebook. Hair a mess, check. Controlling, check. Butt-kisser, check. Dream-killer, check. And yet, Barnett loved Ezra. It'd been a long time since Chrissy'd seen her son this happy.

She talked to her priest about the situation, but he disappointed her terribly. It was clear that her father-in-law, Paw-Paw, was supportive of Barnett and Ezra, which was no surprise; Barnett was always Paw-Paw's favorite. Chrissy didn't have many friends in her small Louisiana town, but she was absolutely sure of three things: nobody would approve of any sort of gay nuptials, Ezra's family was downright weird, and everybody in Mader would blame her for what was about to happen.

At face value, the story inside "Big Gay Wedding" seems awfully familiar: homophobic mom, gay son, wedding, Kumbaya moment, the end. Keep thinking that, though, and you'll miss one truly wonderful novel.

From the paraprosdokian sentences to the Misfit Toys cast of characters, author Byron Lane takes readers from a deep dive into a box of tissues to a good snorting belly laugh, often in the same paragraph. So many unexpected, delightful things occur inside this story, in fact, that you may become disappointed when something conventional occurs.

Which it does, often enough.

Gay bashing, protesters, haters, misunderstanding, it's-a-phase thinking, all the bad old tropes show up in this story, alas. Still, readers will be happy to know that they're dealt with properly, just as you'd expect from a prissy mother, an alcoholic society matron, two men wild in love, a light-fingered grandfather, and a dying sheep named Elaine.

Summer is always a time for weddings, and it's a great time to enjoy this sweet, funny, excellent novel. Simply, "Big Gay Wedding" rocks.

"Big Gay Wedding" by Byron Lane

c.2023, Holt $26.99 336 pages


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