“I highly recommend that—before proceeding—you have already read the first six books in the series. That’s Summer all the way through Thunder.” ~ Jay Bell, November 2015
‘Something Like Stories Volume One’ by Jay Bell is a set of stories designed to add depth and breadth to the series by giving fans an even better understanding of Jay's extraordinary 'Something Like' world. Some characters are new to me and some have only been mentioned in the series. Others are like old friends. I've often read a book and wanted to know more about the characters besides what I've already read. That rarely happens, even in series. With this anthology, I think Jay is sharing more about his “family” to help fans come closer to feeling the way he does about them.
Something Like Yesterday
As Eric lies on his death bed, dreaming of his mother, he is startled awake. Eric calls for the one person he knows will always be there, Tim. He is grateful for Tim's patience, care and love. When Tim asks Eric to tell his life story, Eric begins with his wonderful mother and relates instances of his childhood. Next are his college days and Michael, whom Eric loves, but with whom he learns a heartbreaking lesson emphasizing how awful it is to be gay. Slowly, things begin to change, but there is still the fear of being caught along with having to hide who he is. Eric joins a social activists group where he meets the charismatic Gabriel, who is a huge influence in his life, but eventually breaks his heart and totally disillusions Eric who vows never to love again. When Eric meets Marcello, who is also a huge influence; he and Eric strangely become the best of friends.
I knew very little about Eric, except that Tim lived with him and inherited part of his vast fortune, so I was anxious to learn more. His life story reminded me of the civil rights movement, Vietnam War, SDA and that life was hard, not just for gays, but for everyone. Eric's struggles broke my heart, and of course, made me cry. It was good to learn about the place Tim had in Eric's life, especially in his role as caregiver, and reminds me that Tim's life wasn't all sunshine and roses either, while he and Ben were apart.
Something Like Fall - Part 1: Missouri 2003
Jace and Ben are driving to Warrenburg to meet Jace's parents for the first time. While there, Jace is regaling Ben with stories of growing up in the town. Ben is nervous but has nothing to fear from Jace's parents who are as wonderful and zany as can be and they absolutely love Ben. Ben feels very welcome and enjoys seeing where Jace grew up. Later Jace has too much to drink and ends up looking through a box of Victor's things. Jace knows about Victor, but doesn't know the most important thing; there's no need to be jealous of him because Victor has been dead for a long time. When Jace finally tells Ben, it's at Victor's spot in the woods and is intense, sad, loving, and special. Years later, Ben returns to the spot to keep a very special promise he made to Jace. With the circle complete, he goes back to his new life with Tim.
Since the mere mention of Jace makes my heart hurt, it's not hard to see why this story touched me deeply. It highlights Jace's personality in such a way that it made me love him even more, if that is possible. The way Ben accepted that Victor was Jace's first love was nothing less than spectacular and made me cry harder than ever. There is no doubt they belonged together.
Something Like Fall - Part Two: Tim, Texas 2008
Ben is back from his trip to Warrenburg where he keeps his final promise to Jace. He and Tim are ready to move into their new house and they are both excited. They both need a break from their pasts, Ben with Jace and Tim with Eric and a new house is the best way for both of them. As Ben and Tim look over the house, they reminisce about old times as they decide how to make the house theirs, playfully picking on each other and bickering. It's a big step, but Ben decides doubts are a worthless waste of time. He loves Tim and wants to be with him and that's all that matters. They have time to work it all out and they will.
I wondered about how Ben and Tim would surmount the feelings about the past, the other men in their lives, and the betrayal that happened between them. This story helped fill in a lot of blanks and satisfied some of my curiosity as well as how I felt about their reunion. These two certainly have a strong but rocky road towards harmony.
Something Like Fall - Part 3: Jason, Texas 2009
Tim and Ben struggle with the idea of someone coming to live with them. When Allyson suggests that a former foster child, Jason, who is down on his luck, would benefit by starting a new life with Tim and Ben, Tim especially is conflicted. He's afraid he will screw it up like he has so many things in the past. When Jason arrives, Tim tries to avoid him which, of course, turns out to be impossible. Ben is his loving, giving self, frustrated with Tim and telling him so. What turns the tables for them and creates harmony is when they both decide that Jason is meant to be there because, somehow, Eric and Jace got together and sent him to them.
I loved seeing Ben be...well Ben, loving, optimistic, giving, and, once again, challenged by Tim's reaction to Jason. I was also proud of Tim for finally putting aside his fear and stepping up to the challenge of having Jason there. The “sign” they received from beyond made me cry.
Something Like Tonight
Allyson is surveying her life and questioning if it is what she wants it to be. She loves her husband, even if he is a bit of a dork, nothing like the men she was attracted to before. Watching old movies with her child brings back happy and sad memories of her mother, reminding her of her grace and beauty and thinking about how she assumed she would grow into that, but never did. She chooses a way she's most familiar with in her work, listing people in her life as case files and assessing their progress. A chat with Michelle's sister also brings her life into focus, reminding her of what's most important. Allyson's conclusion is that she's right where she's supposed to be.
Allyson's “introspection” was informative and heartening. Although not my favorite, her “case file therapy” helped remind me of other characters in the story and brought me up-to-date on their lives, which was a nice bonus. It was also good to know that Allyson was reassured that the choices she made in life were the right ones for her.
Something Like Eternity
Victor is taking a walk in the afterlife, meeting all sorts of creatures. Victor has never been what most people considered normal, but in this reality, he can even do unusual things without having to know why. He can conjure up all sorts of scenarios, places, things, but so far, not people. Eventually he comes to a city and heads straight for a bar called 'The Inferno’. Here he meets a surly bartender who says they are closed. Victor continues to speak to him anyway, only irritating him more. Eventually the bartender introduces himself. His name is Dante. They have a conversation about Victor's life and death and how they are affecting his afterlife. Victor is reminded of all the people he left behind who miss him. Victor confesses he feels a longing to be somewhere but doesn’t know where. Dante tells him he has an appointment with Destiny, a beauty but a real bitch at times. Victor follows Sampson, who was his mother's cat, and encounters a man in an airline pilot's outfit, Jace. They embrace and begin to talk. Jace and Victor begin to discuss all the things they didn't get to before Victor killed himself and how both feel about what happened. Victor also learns of things that happened after he died that he should have experienced, but didn't. He has a lot of things to think about, but an eternity in which to do so.
I am thankful that I had read 'Hells Pawn' before reading this short story. It prepared me for Victor's imaginary journey into the afterlife, having the same themes and fantastical beings and events. I recognized Jace at once in 'Hell's Pawn' and it made my heart ache. This story asks and answers many of the questions I had when first reading about Victor's death; that gave me a feeling of closure with him and, especially, how his choice of death affected Jace, who was so devastated by it at the time. Hearing Victor's side of the story enabled me to understand why he committed suicide and to forgive him.
The (not-so) Secret Files of Allyson Cross
This section is a tongue-in-cheek look at Allyson's working relationship with the author, Jay Bell. Since everyone knows Allyson is also a counselor, she kids about having Jay on her couch a lot which is quite amusing. The information provided is Allyson's slant from research she has done on all the 'Something Like' characters, listing them in alphabetical order by first name which makes a particular person easier to find without having to remember which story they are in. It is another invaluable tool in any search for more knowledge of the fabulous characters involved.
The Something Like… Timeline
Since there is no earthly way to remember it all, this section of the book concerns exactly what the title implies, a timeline for the entire series which will obviously be very useful as a reference when wanting to know what happened when, where to whom, where, and why, etc. It's another invaluable tool enabling readers to keep events in the correct order rather than having to search through all the books trying to find the information.
Index of Character Profiles
Since characterization is an extremely important concept in fiction writing, the 'Index of Character Profiles' is important, especially in a series of this proportion. Jay has provided an extensive list of every character in the 'Something Like’ family including a physical description, motto, relationship to the other characters; which book they appear in, etc. It's a resource to give you quick access to any of the characters rather than having to remember them that is a real gift. Just about anyone or anything concerning the 'Something Like’ series will be found in this index that I find extremely helpful.
Thank you, Jay, for the entire Something' experience. May it continue for as long as you want to explore it.