Book Reviews

Following Grandpa Jess by TJ Baer at Bold Strokes Books

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Romance
Reviewed by Lena Grey on 09-November-2013

Book Blurb

Jess Madison has problems. His aging parents seem hell-bent on belittling him in new and increasingly infuriating ways, he's fallen for his best—and, unfortunately, heterosexual—friend David, and his grandmother has recently taken to climbing out on her roof in hopes of contacting the spirit of her late husband, the much-beloved Grandpa Jess.

All Jess wants to do is live his life and feed his goldfish in peace, but instead, he finds himself at the heart of a familial clash that seems ready to tear his family apart. With the help of his two younger brothers, uber-manly AJ and lovably weird Thomas, Jess sets out to reconcile his family, keep Grandma off the roof, and sort out the mess his life has become—with just a little help from Grandpa Jess.


Book Review

“There’s nothing that makes you more insane than family. Or more happy. Or more exasperated. Or more… secure.”– Jim Butcher

Family relationships are always in a state of flux, but an important thing to remember is that love and respect are of the utmost importance. After his grandfather, who was the family glue, dies, Jess of 'Following Grandpa Jess' by TJ Bayer, becomes increasingly concerned about changes that are taking place in his family. Jess is their touchstone, the one they always seek out when they need comfort and advice. He's struggling to come to terms with what is happening, not only with them, but with himself as well. The thing is, in order to make sense of the problematic situations they find themselves in, he and the rest of his family need to look inward to remember what's really important.

Jess is amazing and doesn't even know it. He's also witty, comical, loving, considerate, and the best elder brother anyone could ever want. He has a basic understanding of people which goes far beyond what others can sense. It's a mixed blessing, though, because he often puts other people's feelings ahead of his own. Although this is admirable, it doesn't help his own pursuit of happiness. There's a conflict with his parents because he is gay, which is a constant bone of contention between them. He wishes his parents could just accept that he's gay and, even if they don't understand it, wish him happiness and love regardless of who he finds it with. Jess wants them to love and respect him, give him credit for the good things he does. It breaks his heart; he wants things to be different, but is convinced that there's nothing he can do to change their minds, so he stays away as much as possible, which also causes him considerable pain.

Jess's point of view is often poignant and loving, as he reflects on his brother Tommy's illness and what the future might hold for him, or when he's concerned about his grandmother not belonging in a nursing home. Jess attempts to talk himself out of wanting a relationship with David, his straight friend, not just for his own sake, for the ultimate pain it may cause him, but also, for what he thinks is best for David. Jess needs to learn to see the people in his life not only as those he always needs to sacrifice for; he needs to understand that they are responsible for their own happiness, not him.
A big part of the appeal of this book is its down-to-earth approach to family life. The writing is excellent and engaging without being sappy or over-the top. There aren't any gigantic, earth-shattering events, but there are several that are, nonetheless, important milestones for Jess's family unity. Each character is a piece of the familial puzzle which, even at best, may not fit together perfectly, but those whose greater purpose is brought into better focus with a lot of love, honesty, and introspection, all of which is achieved by remembering to follow the example left by Grandpa Jess. I recommend this heartwarming, emotional story to everyone who wants a good, thoughtful read, one which also reminds us of the importance of family love.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Bold Strokes Books for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Novella, 170 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 01-July-2013
Price $2.99 ebook
Buy Link