Zak Salih’s debut novel Let’s Get Back to the Party is a look at cultural identity (specifically, gay identity) in the midst of a rapidly changing society. Set in the year between the U.S. marriage equality ruling and the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando, the novel follows two gay men, Sebastian and Oscar, childhood friends recently reunited after years of estrangement.
I enjoyed the character-driven, leisurely pace of Salih’s writing. He digs deep into the psyches of these two men, and the slower pace and alternating points of view gave me the opportunity to get to know Sebastian and Oscar on a profound level.
Let’s Get Back to the Party explores cross-generational friendships within the gay community—and the feelings of envy and protectiveness that can pop up in these friendships—in a brutally honest, intense way. Sebastian becomes obsessed with his 17-year-old student Arthur, and Oscar with Sean Stokes, an author in his 60s. And because Sebastian and Oscar are fallible, deeply unlikable characters, that could be downright unsettling in places. Sometimes it was hard to stick with these two, to read how their flaws impacted others, to see them through their growth. But by the end, I felt reading this book was time well spent.
When we think about how much has changed within the LGBTQ+ community from generation to generation…it can feel pretty overwhelming, in both wonderful ways and complicated, hard-to-express ways. I appreciate how Let’s Get Back to the Party opens up a conversation about the feelings that are difficult to express, all with a tender understanding of what it means for an individual to be a part of a greater community.