‘Barring Complications’ by Blythe Rippon
October 21, 2014
No doubt about it: June 26, 2013 will always be remembered as one of the pivotal moments in the historical fight for LGBTQI rights. The tide which gathered first with the Stonewall uprising swept away the obstacles to marriage equality when the US Supreme Court decided that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. But can a new novel, a debut novel no less, do justice to such a monumental event?
Just a few pages into the book, it becomes clear that Blythe Rippon is an accomplished writer and more than capable of hooking a reader. Although the book is a fictional account of a fictional Supreme Court case asking for marriage equality, the story is so cleverly done that it stands on its own merits.
Justice Victoria Willoughby is the newest addition to the Supreme Court. Although not out, she is rumored to be gay. That becomes an issue when the court decides to hear a case about marriage equality. But what really puts her off balance are not the insinuations of the press, but the lead counsel representing the LGBT case: Genevieve Fornier. They have a history—yes, that kind of history. And there is a reason for that history being history only.
Now this is where the story becomes exceptional: With flashbacks to the main characters’ time at Harvard Law, we plainly see what kind of choices and sacrifices that generation was forced to make, to achieve what they wanted to achieve. Because being out and being successful in a career as a professional were in many cases mutually exclusive. The author is to be commended for portraying this historical backdrop without judgment but with full emotional intensity. Blythe Rippon leads the reader right into that maelstrom of history, which mangled so many gay lives. It adds an extra dimension to the novel and honors those who have endured under appalling circumstances. It shows why the fight for equal rights is a fight for basic human rights and why without full equality the pursuit of happiness is denied to us. This backstory enhances the importance of the main storyline and shows why the decision for marriage equality was a landmark case. And it is fitting that the story at the end points at the next frontier, the fight for transgender rights.
This is not a political manifesto. Far from it. Blythe Rippon weaves a compelling tale from the very first page. It is a multilayered story, a story which sweeps the reader away right from the start. Ah, those grand opening chapters introducing the justice and the counselor, those moments of subtle humor, those poignant moments of sadness and joy…
The prose is evocative, fresh, and to the point. The editing is excellent. The whole book is a joy to read. The main and secondary characters are well-developed and enticing. Court procedures, the dealings and wheelings in the LGBT community, the pressure by the press, the threats of weirdos opposed to all things queer, a pinch of romance are all thrown into this book and add up to a great, complex read, a novel which explores and celebrates one of our greatest moments.
By Blythe Rippon
Paperback, 9783955331917, 272 pp.