Bibliophile | Family finds connection in Steven Rowley’s ‘The Guncle’

The Guncle
by Steven Rowley
Simon & Schuster

Guncle (gay uncle) Steven Rowley, who resides in Palm Springs with his husband, has dedicated his latest book to his five nieces and nephews, who have no doubt been inspirations for his third novel. At the centre of the tale is Patrick O’Hara, an out of work television soap opera actor, who has to take care of his brother’s two children over the summer.

Guncle Pat has no experience with children and his Palm Beach bachelor pad, with its white terrazzo floors, is no place for children, although it does have a swimming pool. He does love spending time with Maisie who is nearly nine and Grant who is six years old, but he also loves to give them back to their parents to deal with the tears and tricky questions.

Unfortunately their mother, who was Patrick’s best friend at college before he went west and found fame and she went north and married his brother, has died. His younger brother Greg is relying on him to provide care and support during this time of loss while he gets some much-needed rehab treatment before he can properly look after the children.

Much in the vein of Auntie Mame, life at the gay end of town is not exactly suited to children, but Patrick does his best and is even able to give them some guncle rules of life. Hilariously using examples from Hollywood classics such as The Sound of Music, A Streetcar Named Desire and Auntie Mame, Patrick passes on timeless gems on how to live life.

It is when he gets to the rule about living your life to the fullest every day that he realises he hadn’t been living, but hiding after the death of his long term partner in a car accident … “From people. From friends. From family. From love. From work. From art. From contributing. From everything that mattered.”

While the summer was meant to be about Maisie and Grant being able to heal, it becomes as much about Patrick embracing the healing process after 4 years of building barriers. With the help of the polyamorous throuple next door, Guncle Pat and his niblings manage, not only to survive the summer, but emerge to take on the world with renewed vigour.

Lezly Herbert

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