Centers on Jules, whose partner B has recently died in a freak accident. Confronting the red tape of the hospital, the dissociation and cruelty of B’s family, and the unimaginable void now at the center of their lives, Jules and new friend Theo embark on a road trip to bury two-thirds of B’s ashes in the places they most belong.
Beautiful and tragic, RE Katz’s novel And Then the Gray Heaven embodies 'the whole blessed void: a vast field of care' as it recounts the gradual process of laying the dead to rest ... This near-perfect novel calls 'bullshit on romance and beach condos and Florida itself … for people who lived [there] and got heat-stroke and sea lice and picked oranges for fifteen cents an hour' as Jules betrays how a great love and a geographic place can shape the bones of a person ... Not just another coming out story, the novel is infused with a lived-in queerness.
... leans all the way into Florida’s fractured sense of self, deploying its backdrop to expertly blend pleasure and pain. Dealing philosophically and rather practically with an artist’s immortality, as well as the symbiotic relationship between the mind and body, the book is an observant, heartfelt, and darkly comic story of queer love and loss ... Katz writes shrewdly about Florida throughout ... packs an outsized punch in its brief pages. Its structure as a novella keeps the reader beside Jules as they process their grief from losing B, simulating a sense of near-real time. The result is a perfect container for a complex, expansive story about love, death, and the competing realities of life in Florida and beyond.
Readers of this beating heart of a book will spend valuable time immersed in queer life ... Katz’s observant, wise, and compelling prose voices in Jules a character who navigates oceans of queer alienation to finally tap into connection among queer ancestors, art, and community ... On gorgeous display in this novella—winner of Dzanc’s 2019 Novella Prize—is a powerful experience of the world, both painful and rich, from outside its dominant systems.