By: AJ Odasso
Publisher: DartFrog Books
Publication Date: September 2021
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: July 6, 2021
The Pursued and the Pursuing begins where the other one ends – almost. Essayist and poet AJ Odasso has taken F. Scott Fitzgerald’s signature novel, The Great Gatsby, for another run around the track, with considerable twisting and turning in the process.
The book opens as Jay Gatsby’s longtime friend, first-person narrator Nick Carraway, is helping to move Jay’s corpse minutes after he was shot to apparent death by a misguided jealous husband. But Gatsby is, in fact, still clinging to life, as styled by Odasso. He chokes out a few choice words that astonish Carraway, who hastily arranges his friend’s trip by ambulance to a local hospital where a miraculous recovery is affected. Efforts are made to keep the patient safe from publicity - Gatsby, once a mover and shaker in high society, reverts to his humble birth name, James Gatz.
As Gatsby/Gatz slowly recuperates, he and Nick shyly, cautiously, become more than friends. Their destiny as lovers is fulfilled and the past set aside if not entirely forgotten. But that past will creep in, as Jay’s once great love Daisy will return to complicate their relationship. And her daughter Pammy, a vibrant and rebellious teen, will provide further links, not only to events that preceded the two men’s newly avowed affection, but also to current concerns. Pammy’s closest companion is a dark-skinned beauty, Sylvie. Together this dynamic foursome will need to weave and in some cases re-weave the unfinished tapestry of their connections, while blazing fresh trails. But through it all, Nick and Jay have one another, a bond that only strengthens with time and circumstance.
Odasso, who initiated this work with some separate chapters that attracted favorable attention, has reintroduced Fitzgerald’s world to a new audience, using their noteworthy skill as a wordsmith and reminiscent touches from the earlier novel, with the fresh twist of great love that transcends great barriers. The storyline affords a close, emotive examination of the challenges faced by those daring enough to assay a long-term gay relationship in a past, less enlightened, era. Too, the loyalty of a character very briefly mentioned in Fitzgerald’s work, Finnish servant Magda, provides new possibilities in Odasso’s bold re-invention. Spicy scenes between Nick and Jay add piquant realism to a story that combines international settings and varying locations in the US as the two try to find the right fit for their professional and personal passions, with the thundering backdrop of war threatening in Europe.
Quill says: With a sweep of large issues arising and small but deftly drawn classical touches, Odasso is distinguished as a penman of promise whose imagination is as expansive as the classic drama they so satisfyingly devise in The Pursued and the Pursuing.