“Caprioli describes coming of age in Alaska with a free-spirited Christian mother in this debut memoir.
In 2002, when the 12-year-old author landed in Anchorage to visit his mom, Abby, she picked him up in a beat-up Mustang with no passenger window and a single working headlight. She drove him home through the worst snowstorm ever to hit the region: “The one-hour trip had taken five,” recalls the author. “We had sat at the edge of our seats the entire journey, terrified but excited, happy to be together, and harrowingly aware of death.” Such unpredictability was par for the course with Abby, who gained full custody of Caprioli a few years later, causing him to leave California and settle in Lazy Mountain, Alaska. It was a backwoods, hardscrabble, Evangelical upbringing that didn’t always mesh with Caprioli’s growing gay consciousness. The author moved to New York City in 2012 to pursue his literary dreams. There, he worked for a time as a sex worker, making enough to send Abby money every month. Just as Caprioli began to build a life for himself, Abby was diagnosed with colorectal cancer; he found himself back in Alaska, coming to grips with what his mother meant to him. Caprioli’s prose is frank and insightful, finding the lyricism in everyday objects, turns of phrase, and locales. Here, for instance, he discusses pursuing casual sex in Anchorage after Abby got sick: “Sex is the opposite of death, and spending days with her where she could hardly move her head, or could do nothing but blankly contemplate the enormity of a white, stucco wall—I needed a distraction.” His portrait of Abby is the soul of the book, and she’s revealed as a larger-than-life character who exhibits real problems, and who causes problems for the author, as well. However, she never loses the reader’s sympathy, thanks to his nuanced, nonjudgmental portrayal. The result is a moving rumination on the varying roles that a mother can play in a son’s life, for better and for worse.
An affecting and surprising remembrance about the responsibilities of parents and children.”