Second Son chronicles the changes in family relationships that follow disclosure of a son's AIDS. The father's initial response reveals unexamined attitudes that complicate the supportive response he'd like to give. Father and son are brought into unfamiliar and unwelcome intimacy, the former wanting to "fight it," the latter wanting to turn inward, accept his condition and decide how to live out his life.

Father and son find that they handle sickness in much the same way they have handled the other aspects of their divergent lives. A new lover, who also has AIDS, finally provides what the family, tragically, cannot. The story highlights confusions about what family members owe one another and makes clear how the families of the sick need to be healed if they are to become healing communities.


The predicament of both the son who has AIDS and the family members who want to support him and struggle with their own shock, shame, and bewilderment is handled with admirable balance. The story reexamines in fundamental ways what it means to "survive" and how even misguided love, marred with prejudice, may finally be recognized and received. It is compellingly written, lively, compassionate, and surprising in its frequent introduction of subplots and vignettes that provide both comic relief and commentary on the central plot and theme. A deeply engaging story that makes the point of view of a gay man with AIDS accessible and compelling for a wide spectrum of readers.


Penguin: Plume

Place Published

New York