The Art Of The Heart

     Author: Dan Skinner

     Publisher: Cerberus Inc.

     Rating: 4.5 stars

     Buy Links: Amazon

     Type: Short Story

     Purchased by reviewer


Blurb:  The heartland of America in 1965 feels like the end of the road for seventeen-year-old Zac Weston. After all, there’s nowhere to go when you’re shy, gay, and a virgin. A natural artist, inspiration strikes in the form of neighbor boy Rory, and Zac’s fantasies spill onto the pages of his notebook. When Zac’s secret is discovered, it might take more than wishes to magically make his world right.


Review:  I picked up The Art of the Heart without reading the blurb knowing I would probably enjoy it because I have enjoyed the author’s other books. From the first page the author captured my attention, and as the story progressed, my heart, for the shy, artistic young man named Zac Weston. Zac lives in the small farming community of Sweetwater, Missouri in 1965. The author describes it as a one-eacher town, where there is just one of everything; grocery store, gas station, restaurant – small. I have lived in small towns like that and the author captured it perfectly.

Zac is shy and lonely. He is resigned to spend his life on the farm as so many young men in Sweetwater do. Carrying on the farm tradition, getting married, raising families, but Zac knows this will not be his life. He knows he is different but can’t express it. Zac’s one escape from his solitary life is his comic books. They allow him to safely enjoy his secret desires.

At age thirteen he makes a life changing discovery when he and his dad give Rory McHenry a ride to the gas station. One where he has to sit on Rory’s lap and feelings he has never felt before make themselves known. It is scary and exciting and pretty much the fodder for his future fantasies. He has no doubts that he is gay. At age fourteen, Zac begins to draw. In his loneliness, this is his outlet. Here, he can create a world where

“ …he could live inside his own wonderful world, populate it with people he loved and who loved him in return. With his own art he found a way to make his isolation more bearable.”

Zac’s talent is amazing. His ability to remember everything he sees in minute detail is genius. He draws everything and everyone. But one person is always the focal point of his drawings, Rory McHenry. Even as Rory dates every girl in two counties, Zac watches him from afar, capturing the moments and incorporating them into his stories.

As a reader I was able to see the amazing person Zac is, but he allows people to see him as slow, staying to himself, not talking, keeping his hair in his face, hiding from the world around him. He feels the less attention he draws to himself the better.

It was so sad to see this young man suffer but it’s 1965, in a small town in the Bible belt, and Zac felt that he did not have any options. It isn’t until the McHenry’s spend Thanksgiving with the Weston family that Rory discovers Zac’s talent as an artist. When he sees the more detailed, erotic drawings Zac has made, he says nothing. Zac is afraid this will make Rory hate him but nothing changes and life goes on as usual until once again the two families come together when their parents go out of town and they all stay at the Weston house.

This novella length story is richly told and gives us a detailed look into the lives of these young men. It is captivating and I wanted so much for Zac to find the love he so desperately needs. You have to read the book to find out what happens next. You can guess as I did, but the way the author takes us into the last part of this story is magical. I sat back after the last page savoring this beautiful story. Another gem, Mr. Skinner.




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