I will admit, I worried that Lone Stars was shaping up to be a bit too much like my own first novel — cleverly titled Between a River and a Sea, because it consists of a bunch of carefully crafted scenes where not much happens between a river and a sea. The manuscript remains an unpublished pile of dot-matrix printer paper in my garage ... Thankfully, when “=Lone Stars, narrated in omniscient viewpoint, begins focusing less on Lacy as a beleaguered mother and moves to Julian’s adult years, I was spellbound. I cared. The scenes of Julian reckoning with his ill and broken mother — a woman whose devotion has both sustained and ruined him — are desperately affecting ... The accumulation of small, ordinary moments gives this novel its eventual power, continuing forward in time as Julian wrestles with the appearance of the ne’er-do-well father, Aaron, who he believes abandoned him ... It’s a testament to the experience of reading Deabler’s novel that when I closed Lone Stars, I felt moved, for the first time in a long time, to call my father — because I could, a gift in itself. I could tell him that I loved him.
A multigenerational story, told with sincerity, heart and a profound understanding of what it means to grow up in a community where being homosexual is considered perverse. It’s also a novel about secrets, and not just those pertaining to sexual identity ... The novel’s shining moments have less to do with current events and more to do with the characters breaking away from suffocating relationships and social norms ... One of the best things about Lone Stars is how Deabler frames Julian’s ultimate marriage not as a gay marriage, but as, simply, a marriage with all the challenges and hardships that come with committing yourself to one person. The men struggle with career choices, annoying co-workers, difficult family members, drinking problems and multiple attempts to build a family through adoption. Deabler doesn’t break any literary barriers with “Lone Stars” or expose any new realizations about what it means to be gay. He tells a life-affirming story about how people of all orientations can inspire one another to live their best life. It’s the kind of story we need right now.
In Deabler’s bighearted debut, a gay man looks back on his family’s history to understand how his heritage and identity are woven by his home state of Texas ... Deabler’s layered if at times chockablock story of gay rights, immigrants’ rights, and the financial crisis of 2008—Julian’s husband quits his finance job over a crisis of conscience—makes good use of the general messiness of family ties and the longing to extend one’s line into an uncertain future. In the end, this novel proudly and emotionally defines what it means to be from the Lone Star State.