“First Born Sons” by Vincent Traughber Meis

First Born Sons

Vincent Traughber Meis
Spectrum Books (2022)
ISBN: 979-8833012529
Reviewed by Stephanie Elizabeth Long for Reader Views (09/22)

It’s late 2019; the California fires are spreading, the pandemic is in full swing, and America is deeply divided regarding everything from the BLM movement and the existence of a divisive virus. A blind homosexual black man tries to make a name for himself, only to fall victim to police brutality on a daily basis, and a gay married couple struggles to understand their teenage son’s plight. A divorced woman tries to shield her kids from her ex-husband’s obsession with QAnon and conspiracy theories, and a married woman of twenty-five years drops a bombshell—she is transitioning from female to male. As the fires rage on and the pandemic threatens to break the American spirit, these individuals, all tightly connected, must find a way to weather the storm while grappling with heartbreak, grief, and self-loathing.

Readers will want to get their tissues ready as this one pulls on the heartstrings. “First Born Sons” by Vincent Traughber Meis is an emotionally driven story that follows a handful of people, all somehow connected in the early stages of the pandemic. With the backdrop of the devastating fires, most of the book is set in various parts of California, but readers will also be transported to Thailand and Mississippi.

At first, each chapter read like a separate short story, and I worried that it might be daunting to keep track of all the characters, but perseverance served me well as the connections and various subplots amalgamated effortlessly. Themes of love, courage, and coming of age peppered the pages and undoubtedly won me over.

There is nothing like a global pandemic to really put things into perspective and highlight what’s important. Despite the anger, fear, and palpable anxiety, 2020 forced a collective pause worldwide—a silver lining, perhaps? For many of us, this meant moments of quiet reflection, which sometimes led to life-changing decisions. The characters in the book were no exception, finding solace in ending relationships, transformative changes, and advocating for vulnerable populations. The author deftly illustrated how fear motivated the characters from “First Born Sons” to take a leap of faith and change their trajectory.

As stated earlier, the book is teeming with emotion and poignant scenes that left me reeling. Due to some sexually explicit content and lamentable experiences, it is recommended for an adult audience who enjoys books with complex characters. The author explores same-sex dalliances and transgender relationships; thus, the ideal reader would be part of the LGTBQIA+ community or an ally.

“First Born Sons” reflects the world we live in—it’s messy, heartbreaking, and often disparaging, but also full of profound moments of kindness and love. This book will stay with you long after the last page.

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