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  1. T. Young, writing February 20, 2011

    Ceremonies: I found this book in a used bookstore and am so grateful that I did! The story begins with an anti-gay hate crime; several youths attack and then throw a young man off a bridge. It is based upon the real-life murder of Charlie Howard in Bangor, Maine in 1984. But the book is not about the murder (that occurs in the prologue to the book). It is really about how the community, primarily the gay community of Cardiff, is affected by and copes with the crime.

    Cathcart does an amazing job getting each of the character’s voices just right. I truly felt like I knew each of these characters, from the young gay man who reluctantly comes out publicly despite what the costs are for him to the older lesbian who has shut herself off from love years before after a lover leaves her following her own encounter with the police when she was a victim of a violent crime. The characters run the gamut of ages, openness, relationship status, and yet Cathcart makes each one real to the reader.

    This book could be a primer on what it was like to be gay in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I found myself nodding my head in agreement and reading passages to my partner throughout the book. It wrestles not only with questions about sexuality but what makes a community.

    I wanted to savor the book and I found myself not wanting it to end. I would love for Cathcart to do a sequel because I would love to know where these characters are 20+ years later. The author genuinely made me care about them and their lives; they stick with you after finishing the novel. Thankfully, I’ve learned that Cathcart has written two more novels based on historical events within the LGBT community, and I can’t wait to read them now as well. I truly hope this book finds a larger audience; it deserves it!

  2. Michael Bronski, writing in The Guide, June 2002

    Ceremonies: Weaving a seamless web connecting the personal to the political, the inner life to the world around us, Cathcart makes clear that the vibrancy of being gay, or queer, or homosexual resides in each individual and can be the catalyst that moves us to insight and often to action. So often works of fiction that are inspired by “real” events are overshadowed by the harshness or vividness of their inspiration. Dwight Cathcart’s splendid novel transfigures Charlie Howard’s murder into something that mediates our rage to understanding, our sorrow to our ability to challenge and change the world.

  3. J. A. Lee, wriring August 28, 2002

    CEREMONIES is a big, ambitious book. It takes place in the mid-80s, and is one of the best accounts I’ve read of the changes in the gay movement particular to those years, changes that have repercussions today. And because it takes place in a small town in Maine, it focuses, in a way I haven’t often encountered in gay-themed fiction, on how those changes affected people living outside of the major cities. The Matthew Shepherd-like murder that is the central event of the story isn’t actually what CEREMONIES is about-in fact, it’s quickly (though horrifically) dispensed with in the Prologue. The book is really about the reactions to this murder by a very diverse group of people who have the fact of their sexual preference in common, but often not much else; they are very far from being a community. The story is told by half a dozen or more narrators, some “in”, some “out”. They include an emotionally disturbed boy who was friends with the murdered man; a very proper widowed school teacher who has always hidden her feelings about women; an actor who is in town for the summer; a young lesbian couple who are raising a son together; and-to me, most movingly-the staunch, older New England types who have lived their whole lives in Cardiff, Maine, and arrived at a degree of comfort in living with their secret, a comfort they now find threatened. While CEREMONIES is a study of how a community slowly and painfully forms out of a group of individuals, and a lot of fairly subtle political issues are raised and thoughtfully discussed, what gives it real depth is this diversity of voices. Cathcart makes them all believable and three-dimensional, not only the more sympathetic characters but those who are not so sympathetic as well. None of them feels like an example or a type, they’re all unique personalities, with their own flaws, troubles, eccentricities, and senses of humor. That makes the issues raised not just dry, political-journal matters, but facts that real people deal with in their daily lives, each in his or her own way, often with passion, sadness and some really convincing (and moving) moments of revelation and celebration. I would recommend CEREMONIES especially to younger gay people who may not identify as strongly as some of us middle-agers with the concerns and struggles of twenty years ago, and to straight readers who might enjoy a break from the one or two stereotyped gay characters that appear so often in mainstream fiction.

  4. P. Rasch, writing February 5, 2013

    Ceremonies: The book takes us on an insightful voyage through characters as they respond to tragedy. The responses of each person reveal the characters. Deep.

  5. J. S. Hall, writing in the Washington Blade, January 2003

    In this erudite debut, the murder of a gay newcomer prompts the non-heterosexual inhabitants of Cardiff, Maine, to unite in grief and anger. With a sprawling cast of characters that traverse gender, class and age, Ceremonies is as much a meditation on the birth of the gay community on a national level as it is a queer equivalent of Our Town.

  6. Tom Britt

    Cathcart writes “gay books,” but these are not the kind of gay books that you may imagine. A horrifying crime brings together the Queer Community of a small Maine town in the way that any community comes together in times of tragedy as the separate members deal with the consequences to them. Above all, they deal with the ceremonies of lost innocence, as the Poet Yeats wrote of its “drowning.” Much is to be gained by reading this book in terms of its universality, but this book is written for and about the Queer Community and how its members have to deal with the tragedy of their lives. This is a book with a lot to say to the person who listens.

    • Dwight Cathcart

      Thank you, Tom.


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