By Bradon Nave
Genre: NA Coming of Age
Published: February 9, 2016
In 1986, twenty-three-year-old country girl Nora Brown decides it’s time for a change…
Complacent and bored with her life in rural Oklahoma, Nora leaves her bigoted father and all she’s ever known to pursue a new life in San Francisco. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, Nora, a registered nurse, believes she can be an asset to the community. Bunking in a tiny apartment with a longtime friend, Nora secures a job within a large hospital and begins volunteer work for an organization that cares for those afflicted with the disease.
She is soon faced with the horrors of AIDS—a reality she wasn’t quite prepared for…
Just as the courageous group of caregivers and volunteers have their emotional strength depleted to the point of no return, the group rallies together and pushes forward, remembering their mission—if they aren’t there for these people, who will be?
Nora wasn’t expecting to find him here, to “fall in love among the ashes…”
Along her journey, she meets a diverse community of lionhearted survivors. And then there’s Donald, another volunteer who fights alongside those with dwindling hope. Nora and Donald grow closer as the war on HIV rages around them.
They watch their friends waste to nothing, yet no answers are being offered. The only comfort is the solace they find in each other. After months of hardships, another crippling loss shakes the foundation of Nora’s faith.
Their struggle is not only about HIV/AIDS—but about how the nation responds, and the humanistic choice to be unsung heroes.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of COPPER LILLIES by Bradon Nave for the purpose of an honest review.
COPPER LILLIES by Bradon Nave is definitely a reminder of what it was like when the HIV/AIDS crisis was first brought to the attention of the world. Bradon Nave has written it as though he were there in San Francisco and witnessed it all first-hand!
Mr. Nave has written strong characters who are each very memorable for their strength and passion.
One of impressionable moment for me was the revealing of the reasoning for the book’s name:
“My garden,” he said solemnly.
“It’s beautiful.” I moved closer to him.
“I can’t really garden… and a real flower for each one of them would break me. Even a nickel for each one of them would break me. Real gardens die anyway. Flowers just fade and die,” the man said as he looked to me. The dim light’s reflection danced in his streaming tears as his haunting gaze seemed to steal my breath.
“I don’t know what you mean, Charley,” I forced from my throat. Witnessing my friend’s pain without knowing what was behind it was becoming unbearable.
“Each one represents one of them, Nora.”
“One of the countless faces in the newspaper that ends up in the trash. This is my memorial to them. This is my garden to them. This is their garden.”
Like a little girl on the playground, face down in the dirt after tripping over her shoestrings, I felt the wind knocked from my lungs— I couldn’t breathe. Each painted plant, each penny represented one of many that had lost their life to this horrendously cruel monster.
“Charley!” I blurted out. “There are so damn many!”
“I know! And I add more every week. Every week from our paper and New York’s.”
“You’re so beautiful. This is so beautiful. A penny rose garden?” I asked, assuming he’d named his masterpiece.
“No, they’re lilies. My favorite. They’re copper lilies.”
Nave, Bradon. Copper Lilies (Kindle Locations 1851-1866). Limitless Publishing LLC. Kindle Edition.
This exchange between Nora and Charley nearly took my breath away. As do many moments with deep emotional content in COPPER LILLIES!
Reading COPPER LILLIES took me back to that horrible time when HIV and AIDS was all so new and greatly feared. No one, including the medical and scientific communities, truly knew much about the disease. So many ignorant people laid blame by singling out the gay community, calling it the “Gay Plague”. Homophobia was running as rampant as the disease itself. I learned by watching those around me, in small town America, how NOT to behave. Then in 1999, I learned how to deal with it from a beloved high school friend who die from AIDS related complications.
COPPER LILLIES is written very well. However, I believe the story could have been told without the copious use of profanity.
I give COPPER LILLIES by Bradon Nave four steaming hot Room With Books coffee and recommend you read it if you have the stomach for a high dose of reality!
©July 30, 2016
I was lucky I had him. I didn’t move to San Francisco in search of love. I would frown upon someone for falling in love among ashes. Perhaps I wasn’t actively seeking love; rather, longevity.
It seemed nothing was solidified; nothing was guaranteed to return a smile the following day. Even if it were not my pain, per se, to simply witness the pain of loss from afar was enough to plummet my ailing psyche back into the pit it was attempting to crawl out of. Donald was my rope. A thin rope at first, but our threads were growing in number. I had to be sure I didn’t hang myself.
After spending the rest of the day together, Donald and I ended our day’s adventure in the confinements of his bedroom. He laid me down on his bed, gently kissing my neck, and I knew without a doubt that the interaction would go no further than heated kissing and clothed entanglement. I made that abundantly clear prior to his closing of the bedroom door.
There would be no raunchy stories for Gwen to salivate over the following morning. I didn’t feel dirty, and for once the oppression of guilt momentarily subsided. I was allowed to find mild pleasure without feeling disgraceful or distasteful.
His touch brought a rush similar to the feeling I’d experienced on country Oklahoma roads with local high school all-stars a few years prior, but there was something much more.
The physical effects he had on my body were coupled with the idea that he might be something solid. That he might be there day after day. That he might not fade away.
“You’re beautiful,” he whispered.
“You’re hairy,” I replied hastily, evoking a chuckle. “You’re beautiful too.”
“Beautiful?” He momentarily halted the tongue massage on my neck.
“Handsome. Hairy and handsome.”
“And a distraction?”
The question caught me off guard.
Initially I assumed he’d be little more than that, a distraction. A distraction from everything going on around me. Gradually, I had accepted the idea that exploring realms beyond friendship and preoccupation with this gentleman was something I could be okay with.
“No.Yes and no. What am I?”
“A girl,” he said playfully, scanning my face for hints.
“You’re not just a distraction. Something to take my mind off of Buddies and the hospital, yes; but I like you.”
“I like you. But you’re my escape. Sometimes I feel like there’s no escape. I can either close my eyes and see their faces, see Toby’s face, or I can see yours. I miss him. Maybe I miss him too much.” His eyes were dry yet flooded with pain.
There was no way the average farm boy from rural Texas could digest losing one of his closest friends in such a short period of time. Had he been back home and his buddy been killed in an accident, Donald would have had monumental support and guidance throughout the grief process. Here, everyone had a Toby, a Logan, all of our friends were losing friends. Attempting to share feelings with our social group would only add turmoil to their grief-stricken lives.
“I can be that. I’d like to be that,” I muttered as I kissed him.
The passion left our fingertips quicker than it mounted in them. He ran the tip of his index finger under my eye, tracing it to my earlobe. It was as if we bottled the explosive emotions for another night and took comfort in companionship. I wasn’t trying to be a hero, but I certainly wasn’t trying to write a love story either. At this point, I was comfortable moving through this experience with this person and allowing myself a temporary reprieve from my constant over analyzing—whatever happens, happens—just let it be, and it will be.
Bradon Nave was born and raised in rural Oklahoma. He attended a small country school during junior high and high school, and graduated with only three people in his class. After graduate school, he decided to devote his spare time to his passion of writing. Bradon currently lives in Piedmont, Oklahoma, with his wife and two young children.
When he’s not writing, he loves running, being with friends and family, and being outdoors.